Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs plans to “take steps to subpoena information regarding VA’s admitted destruction of a document department officials have speculated may be the “secret” list cited by Phoenix VA Health Care System whistleblowers.”
That’s according to a press release from Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Cong. Jeff Miller. The Florida congressman sent a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki May 1. But the VA response, Miller said, does not address his questions.
So, the committee “to take steps to subpoena relevant information and/or individuals who can provide said information” at its May 8 business meeting.
However, Miller has stopped short of calling for Shinseki’s resignation and instead released a statement following the American Legion’s call for the VA leader to step down.
“Make no mistake. There is a crisis of confidence with VA’s top leadership, and the American Legion’s calls for the resignations of the department’s top leaders should be sending shock waves through the White House. I have the utmost respect for Commander Dellinger’s opinion, and while I am going to wait until VA’s inspector general releases its report on the situation in Phoenix before deciding to call for any personnel changes … Right now, President Obama and Sec. Shinseki are faced with a stark choice: take immediate action to help us end the culture of complacency that is engulfing the Veterans Health Administration and compromising patient safety, or explain to the American people and America’s veterans why we should tolerate the status quo.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Secretary Shinseki is responding to the calls for his resignation by pointing out that he serves at the pleasure of the president. He told NPR’s All Things Considered:
“I signed on to do this to help him make things better for veterans in the near term, as quickly as possible, but also to put in place for the long term those changes to this department that will continue to help veterans well into this century.”
The VA leader told Military Times that any VA employees at hospitals in Arizona and Colorado involved in medical appointment delays and subsequent coverups can expect “swift and appropriate” punishment.
But Shinseki urged patience in waiting for investigators to fully uncover and report on the problems.
In an interview with Military Times on Wednesday, Shinseki also spoke about recent criticism of his leadership style and the American Legion’s demand that he and two of his top deputies resign from their jobs.
In late April, Cong. Miller visited a Tampa American Legion to announce he planned to bring a “field hearing” to Florida. His goal to delve into Inspector General’s report that delayed health care may have lead to patient deaths and injuries at VA hospitals. That hearing is not yet scheduled.