A team of federal investigators swept into Phoenix last month amid allegations of a disturbing cover-up at the veterans hospital.
Their goal: to unravel the truth behind a secret waiting list supposedly maintained to hide lengthy delays for sick veterans, making it appear as if they were seeing doctors sooner when some may have waited months and died in the meantime.
The claims, which so far have not been proved, have thrown the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs into turmoil. Politicians have called for resignations, congressional inquiries are underway, and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is appearing before a Senate committee in Washington this week.
And it’s only the beginning. Shinseki has ordered an audit of every VA facility nationwide and similar claims of waiting-list manipulations have cropped up in other states. As the election-year talk surrounding the debate rages, here is a look at some key facts about the issue:
HOW DID THE ALLEGATIONS COME TO LIGHT?
A former clinic director for the VA in Phoenix started sending letters to the VA Office of Inspector General, complaining about systematic problems with delays in care.
“The time is now. The place is Phoenix, Arizona where a message needs to be sent loud and clear to VA administrators and bureaucrats alike that the murder of our veterans for cash bonuses and career advancement will no longer be tolerated,” wrote Dr. Samuel Foote, who retired after spending nearly 25 years with the VA.
Foote later took his claims to the media, then to Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, who announced the allegations at an April hearing.