Healthcare Business News

VA officials no-shows at hearing on alleged wait-time cover-up

By Virgil Dickson
Posted: May 22, 2014 - 1:45 pm ET

Three senior Veterans Affairs Department officials stood up a House committee Thursday, failing to appear to answer questions about the alleged cover-up of long wait times for services at VA health facilities.

The Veterans Affairs Committee called the hearing to discuss the officials' response to a May 8 subpoena for information about allegations that a Phoenix facility kept and then destroyed a secret waiting list.

The no-shows included Dr. Thomas Lynch, the VA's assistant deputy under secretary for health overseeing clinical operations and management. Lynch, according to committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) (PDF), revealed during a private congressional briefing in April that the Phoenix facility created and later deleted an “interim list” in an Excel spreadsheet, which Lynch reportedly speculated could be the list that whistle-blowers say was used to manipulate wait times.

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Also failing to appear were Joan Mooney, assistant secretary for congressional and legislative affairs, and Michael Huff, a congressional relations officer.

The officials informed the committee that they could not attend because they were given only 15 hours' notice. Miller noted that VA officials have previously made themselves available on much shorter notice.

The committee rescheduled the hearing for May 28 and voted to issue a new subpoena to compel the officials to testify May 30 if they don't show up voluntarily.

Miller said the committee's staff received more than 3,000 e-mails from the VA in response to the earlier subpoena, the bulk of which arrived at 2:30 a.m. on Thursday. The correspondence, Miller said, did not appear to adequately address the Phoenix allegations.

“What they are doing now is selectively giving e-mails they want us to have to help mold their story, instead of allowing us to do our constitutional duty,” Miller said.

Committee member Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), a gynecologist, said he was stunned at the apparent unwillingness of the VA to respond to the May 8 subpoena in a timely fashion.

“If these delays were related to something like passports or licenses, I could understand, but this is about life and death,” Roe said.

Follow Virgil Dickson on Twitter: @MHvdickson

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