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Nearly half of stranded Phoenix veterans seek doc appointment in June

Deputy Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson leaves the White House in Washington, Friday, May 30, 2014, after being named by President Barack Obama to run the Veterans Affairs Department on an interim basis while Obama searches for a replacement for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki who resigned Friday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Almost half of the 1,700 veterans that had been left off the waiting list in the Department of Veterans Affairs' healthcare system in Phoenix have asked for a health appointment within the next 30 days.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said Wednesday that the VA has reached out to as many stranded veterans as possible that were identified by the VA's Office of Inspector General last month. The VA said of the 1,700 identified in the OIG report, some were duplicates and some did not provide contact information.

Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson says hundreds of Phoenix-area veterans have requested health services within 30 days. Gibson will speak on the VA healthcare situation on Thursday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

That left 1,586, and of those, about 725 veterans have asked for health care services within the next 30 days.

Gibson said VA reached out to these veterans in response to the OIG report, and said it was a priority of the VA to ensure they get care.

"The Department has now reached out to every Veteran identified by the OIG to discuss individual medical needs and immediately begin scheduling appointments," Gibson said Wednesday. "Getting this right is our top priority, and taking care of the Veterans in Phoenix is a good place to start."

The OIG report cited "systemic" failures throughout the VA healthcare system, and was seen as evidence that VA officials had been hiding the long wait times that many veterans faced when seeking health services in that system.

Gibson said that as a next step, the VA would continue to find stranded veterans around the country to ensure they receive immediate care if they need it. The VA said Gibson would be in Phoenix on Thursday to make additional announcements about what steps the VA would take next to repair the broken healthcare system in the department.

Earlier Wednesday, House Republican leaders called on President Barack Obama to personally speak to Americans about what steps are being taken to fix the problem. GOP leaders asked specifically what the government is doing to find veterans outside the Phoenix system, and called on Obama to support legislation giving veterans healthcare options outside the VA system.

"Our veterans should not be left in limbo, relying on what your own audit acknowledges is a 'systemic lack of integrity within some Veterans Health Administration facilities,' " GOP leaders wrote.

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