VA facilities' scandal a breach of trust

As I’m sure most of you have probably heard at this point, it’s become clear over the last few weeks that a number of VA facilities around the country have been keeping so-called “secret wait lists”.

The point of these lists, at least in the case of Arizona, was to hide the true number of veterans who had been waiting extraordinary periods for treatment at the VA.

In a number of those cases, the veterans died needlessly because they did not receive the medical attention they needed.  This past Thursday, news broke that what may be a similar list was discovered at the VA facility in Gainesville.  The list, which contained more than 200 names, related to mental health appointments.

At this point, it’s not clear whether it’s the same situation.  Officials with the VA have readily acknowledged that the handwritten list was a breach of protocol.  I suspect we will learn more in the days ahead, but when taken into context with everything else that is going on, I have serious, serious concerns.

In short, I believe that what has happened with the VA constitutes a deep breach of trust – with the veterans themselves, with Congress, and with the American people.  Congress has been purposefully misled and at this point, I have a sincerely hard time believing them when they say, “everything is fine and the issues are being addressed.”  In my opinion, we’re well passed that.

I have called for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation.  That’s not something I take lightly.  I truly believe, however, that at this point, the only way to restore faith and improve accountability is for the leadership to change at the VA.  Sec. Shinseki has been at the helm of the VA since the President took office.  It’s not enough, in my opinion, for him to express his outrage at what has happened on his watch.  It’s time for him to step aside and for us to bring in new leadership.

We’ll have more to report on the VA in the coming weeks, but suffice it to say, these “secret wait lists” are not the only thing going on there that Americans should be appalled at.

It’s important that veterans know that if they are being ignored by the VA, they should contact me.  If I had known that a veteran in urgent need of care was being denied an appointment to see a doctor, I would have moved heaven and earth to get that situation resolved. Not everybody knows that members of Congress can serve as a resource in that regard, but it’s a fundamentally important part of what we do as your representatives in the federal government.

In any case, that’s what we’ve got going on this week.  If there is anything else you think I should be aware of, please let me know.

Richard Nugent,
Member of Congress, 11th Congressional District