Several lawmakers asked if the results from either the audit or the OIG investigation would lead to terminations, but Shinseki would say only that there would be swift disciplinary action. About 3,000 employees were involuntarily removed from their posts in each of the past two years for poor job performance or conduct, Shinseki said, but he was unable to say if any were let go for altering records to conceal wait times.
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) asked why Shinseki had yet to offer to resign as a result of these cases given that the secretary said he was ultimately responsible if care was falling short for some veterans.
Shinseki responded that his mission is to improve the quality of healthcare for veterans and that care has indeed improved under his leadership over the past five years. As a result, he said, he will remain in his post until the president tells him it's time for him to go.
VA Undersecretary of Health Robert Petzel said during the hearing that the wait times are not caused by a lack of resources.
The problem, according to Richard Griffin, acting inspector general for the VA, is a lack of focus on healthcare among competing priorities, such as disaster preparedness and homelessness.
“The unexpected deaths that the OIG continues to report on at VA facilities could be avoided if VA would focus first on its core mission to deliver quality healthcare,” Griffin testified. “We believe it is time to review the organizational structure and business rules of VHA to determine if there are changes that would make the delivery of care the priority mission.”
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