This morning the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee unanimously voted to subpoena all emails and written correspondence from Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki, and other senior VA officials, regarding destruction of any “wait list” that existed for Veteran’s appointments at the Phoenix, AZ Department of Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center. The subpoena comes after weeks of stonewalling by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs after revelations that Veterans may have died due to being placed on a wait list at the Phoenix, AZ facility.
Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R) explained during that hearing that the senior leadership of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has been asked at least three times to provide information to the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee in regards to the alleged wait list that may have led to the deaths of up to 40 Veterans who were connected to the Phoenix, AZ Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center.
The ranking Democratic member of the Committee, Rep. Mike Michaud, said during the hearing that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has not been helpful in regards in regards to the three previous requests on this issue and that “the response received yesterday (from VA) was insufficient” in regards to two simple questions regarding the alleged wait list.
Particularly troubling are recent allegations that the alleged wait list was destroyed. The Veteran’s Affairs Department has denied the existence of such a list but Dr. Sam Foote, a retired Department of Veteran’s Affairs doctor, and others who are speaking off record, allege that the VA is lying about the existence and destruction of the wait list that may have had the names of over 1,400 Veterans on it. Further, internal Department of Veteran’s Affairs emails not only point to the existence of such a list but point to disgust at the prospect of Veterans having to wait so long for appointments with one staffer writing, “That is unethical and a disservice to our Veterans.”
The House Veteran’s Affairs Committee vote to subpoena the senior leadership of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs was not only unanimous but is very nearly unprecedented. Chairman Miller said that this was only the second time the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee voted to subpoena documents from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The previous subpoena was never served due to almost immediate compliance by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. It remains to be seen if the Department will comply with the subpoena or possibly face further action by a body that has held Attorney General Eric Holder and former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.
Secretary Shinseki is so far refusing to step down and the President is standing by the Veteran’s Affairs Secretary.
The controversy over the Department of Veterans Affairs allegedly maintaining a wait list for patients, that may have caused Veterans to die and was possibly later destroyed, is but the latest in a series of troubles for a Department plagued by a claims backlog and other issues. The subpoena is also the latest in a series of administration issues being investigated by the Congress after Benghazi and IRS scandal. In each case, the administration has stonewalled requests from Congress to clear up the situation.
The move by the House Committee follows another nearly unprecedented action after The American Legion, the nation’s largest Veteran’s organization with over 2.4 million paid members, demanded this week that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resign. According to The Washington Post, The American Legion has not called for the resignation of a cabinet member in 1941, over 70 years ago.