The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee wants to know who at the Department of Veterans Affairs misled Congress about how many veterans died waiting for treatment and why the misinformation became part of official documents, congressional testimony and public relations by the embattled VA.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) speaks during a news conference, July 10, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
“This is an incredibly serious matter that demands your immediate attention,” Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said in a letter to new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald.
President Barack Obama on Thursday will sign a VA reform bill that will allow the VA secretary to fire department bureaucrats more easily and also provide emergency funding for veterans to get private health care to avoid being on a long waiting list.
In April, VA officials told Congress that a review going back to 1999 found that 23 veteran patient deaths were linked to delays in gastrointestinal care. However, the Tampa Bay Times reported last week, none of the deaths occurred before 2010.
The initial numbers were provided to Congress in a VA fact sheet and repeated by VA Assistant Deputy Under Secretary Thomas Lynch in a briefing to committee staff April 7. Two days later, Lynch testified to the committee that “we examined over 250 million consults since 1999 in VA. We identified where there were delays.”
“New revelations, however, call into question the validity of the oft-cited 1999 date,” Miller said in the letter. “Our committee has learned that none of the deaths identified by the review of high interests consults occurred prior to 2010. Additionally, in July 3, 2014, letter to me, Dr. Clancy referred to the review that highlighted the deaths of '2010-2012 look back.'”
“After months of conversations marked the first time any VA official indicated that the review only went back to 2010,” Miller said.. “VA special assistant for Clinical Operations Gavin West subsequently admitted to the Tampa Bay Times that the fact sheet omitted the correct years over which the deaths spanned.”
Miller said the information should be provided by Aug. 11.
A VA spokeswoman confirmed to TheBlaze that the department had received Miller's letter and wold respond directly to his office.
According to the committee, there are 117 outstanding requests for information from the VA – many predating even the revelations about the waiting list scandal. Of those, 66 information requests have been pending since 2012.