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Minnesota members demand progress report from VA on effort to punish wrongdoers

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Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald testifies before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on a report by the department's inspector general on patient care delays at the VA's Phoenix medical center, on September 9, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Minnesota's entire congressional delegation is asking Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald for a meeting to discuss what the VA is doing to fix health care access for veterans in their state, and what is being done to punish officials involved in the scandal.

The VA scandal has faded somewhat from the headlines, as Congress approved a bill letting the VA spend billions of dollars to ensure veterans can get care, either inside or outside the VA system. But the Minnesota letters shows that more and more members are growing anxious about whether and how the VA will shorten the wait times for veterans seeking health care, and whether officials will be fired or disciplined in some other way.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald has been asked to update Minnesota members about whether the VA is improving and firing officials involved in the health care scandal. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN

The letter said the delegation is "troubled" by allegations about misconduct at the VA, but said the issues in their state are still being investigated by the VA's Inspector General.

"We have urged them to proceed as quickly and as thoroughly as possible so that any mismanagement of veterans is identified and eliminated and anyone responsible can be held to account," they wrote.

They asked McDonald to meet with them once the IG report is completed, to discuss its findings and "the steps you are taking to ensure any wrongdoing is appropriately punished."

"We believe that the opportunity to discuss our concerns about the VA in Minnesota with you is essential to the process of restoring the trust of our state's veterans and their families in the VA health care system," they added.

But so far, the VA has indicated it's not willing to fire many, or any, officials involved in the scandal. McDonald has indicated in recent weeks that he won't take any action to fire senior officials until all investigations are done.

That has frustrated members of Congress who were hoping McDonald would quickly use his new authority to fire VA officials involved in the scandal.

More recently, McDonald has also failed to say whether he would be firing VA officials who retaliated against others who tried to reveal the extent of the failures at the VA. McDonald said this week that the VA would not tolerate retaliation against whistleblowers, but was silent on whether anyone would be fired.

Last week, the VA tried to pretend it was considering firing one senior official after he had already left for retirement.

Minnesota's delegation is made up of two Democratic senators, and eight members of the House, three of which are Republicans.

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