The House Veterans' Affairs Committee voted unanimously Thursday to subpoena VA Secretary Eric Shinseki
and other senior VA officials to supply documents from the department as allegations continue to swirl over the VA's Phoenix health system and the department's response and possible cover-up of problems there.
“The scope of this subpoena will encompass all e-mails and other written correspondence where these parties discuss the destruction of an alternate wait list regardless of which name it was given and which form in which it was kept, ” the subpoena states.
Former VA clinic employees have claimed that a secret list of patients waiting for appointments had been maintained in order to cover up delays in treatment that they say led to the deaths of as many as 40 patients.
The committee was notified of the list on April 24. The committee chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), said the panel contacted the VA Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs on April 28 asking for information about the list.
“We didn't get a response back on the 28th, so we called back on the 29th and got no response on the 29th,” Miller said. “So we called again on April 30 and spoke directly to Assistant Secretary (for Congressional and Legislative Affairs) Joan Mooney, but still got no response.”
The VA responded to Miller's request yesterday, he said, but did “not fully answer the very simple questions that I asked.” Miller called the VA's lack of responses in April “a model of VA stonewalling.”
Since the allegations against the VA facility arose, Shinseki has placed three system officials on administrative leave and sent a team of clinical experts to Phoenix to review scheduling procedures and delays in care. The VA also invited the department's inspector general to complete a review of the Phoenix VA Health Care System.
Today, the VA released a statement announcing that Shinseki has ordered a “face-to-face audit” for all VA clinics “to ensure a full understanding of VA's policy and continued integrity in managing patient access to care.”
Several Republican lawmakers and veterans organizations, including the American Legion, have called for Shinseki's resignation, but as of Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that “the president remains confident in Secretary Shinseki's ability to lead the department and to take appropriate action.”Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden