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Boozman Seeks Assurance from VA Secretary about Arkansas VA Medical Centers

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) sought assurance from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki that Arkansas veterans receiving medical care at VA facilities are not facing long wait times and data is not being manipulated to hide the length of time for health appointments.

Boozman, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is recovering from heart surgery and could not attend today’s hearing. However, he offered the following statement for the official record:

“I understand that in most respects VA does provide good care, when and where it is actually available. Additionally, I know that employees in various roles at VA, like me, strongly support those who have served our nation in uniform and believe the federal government should uphold all of its promises to our veterans and extend the best timely care to them. However, as recent reports indicate, this is not happening. This is a clear access problem and warrants a full analysis of the future of VA healthcare as part of our effort at solving immediate problems. I have reservations about the ability of VA’s “face to face” audits to produce meaningful reform that will increase access for veterans and bring accountability to the process. I am supportive of rigorous oversight by this committee and I look forward to working with all of my colleagues on both the House and Senate Veterans’ Committees, in consultation with the Department of Veterans Affairs, to ensure that these systemic problems are fixed.”

Committee Members asked for answers about recent news reports detailing inaccurate information provided by VA facilities that led to preventable deaths of veterans.

In advance of the committee hearing, Boozman sent a letter to Sec. Shinseki writing “Veterans in Arkansas receive care at VAMCs in Little Rock, North Little Rock and Fayetteville, as well as Memphis, TN, Shreveport, LA and Poplar Bluff, MO. I seek your explicit assurance that no such “double list” exists at any of these VAMCs, or any other delivery point of health care to Arkansas’s veterans, that would in effect hide detrimentally long wait times or otherwise manipulate data.”

Boozman’s office has yet to receive a response from VA.

The full text of the letters is below:

According to widespread media accounts and recent reports, there are indications that dangerously long wait times and the existence of a “secret” electronic wait list at the Phoenix VA Medical Center (VAMC), has resulted in numerous preventable veteran deaths. I am disheartened by these allegations and am committed to ensuring that we conduct appropriate oversight of VA and are accountable to our veterans and their needs through providing the best, timely health care services possible.

In response to these allegations at the Phoenix VAMC, I understand that the VA Office of Inspector General (VA OIG) is conducting an investigation. Veterans in Arkansas receive care at VAMCs in Little Rock, North Little Rock and Fayetteville, as well as Memphis, TN, Shreveport, LA and Poplar Bluff, MO. I seek your explicit assurance that no such “double list” exists at any of these VAMCs, or any other delivery point of health care to Arkansas’s veterans, that would in effect hide detrimentally long wait times or otherwise manipulate data. I would also like to know the current wait times for all of the aforementioned VAMCs, as well as whether or not each of these locations use electronic waiting lists.

I look forward to prompt and complete response to my questions and request for assurance. Thank you for your continued work in service to our nation’s veterans.

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