Media coverage continues to grow over previous reports of veterans dying while waiting for medical care at a Veterans Affairs facility in Phoenix, Arizona. Last night, Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity conducted their own interviews on the topic. Kelly spoke with former VA Secretary Anthony Principi and Hannity spoke with family members of one of the veterans who died to kick off a week-long series of stories of families impacted by this scandal.
Principi raised the question that the act of manipulating wait lists is possibly criminal. President Obama also made his first public statement almost a week after the initial reports announcing an investigation into the deaths in Arizona.
Jim Rubens, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate offers the following statement about this growing media coverage:
"This is a bigger story than Fox and the Washington Post are reporting. Notably lacking in this coverage is reference to the April 2012 testimony to the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee that administrators at at least four more VA centers had also been falsifying veterans health care wait list records and delaying care while receiving millions in bonuses. It's clear that culpability for failure to address this unpardonable mistreatment of veterans extends beyond VA administrators to certain U.S. senators who heard the 2012 testimony and failed to demand action."
The following is a copy of a press release the Rubens campaign issued this past Friday:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2014
Jim Rubens Statement on Reports of Veterans Dying Waiting for Medical Care
Rubens demands transparency and accountability for all involved.
Scott Brown failed to lead on critical veterans' issues.
Jim Rubens, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, offered the following statement in response to a CNN story that 40 veterans died while waiting for medical care at a Veterans Administration hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, that hospital administrators had falsified veterans appointment backlog records and according to earlier news reports, these practices had occurred at VA facilities in Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Florida. In another report, is also alleged that administrators used falsified backlog records to secure bonus pay for themselves. In 2011, the VA paid out $194 million in bonuses.
"It turns my stomach that government employees might be profiting while our heroes are dying waiting for the healthcare we owe them. Those responsible for this vile and heartless abuse of our veterans must be rooted out and held fully and publicly accountable. Until this is fixed, veterans on these extended wait lists must be given vouchers to obtain the care they deserve at the hospital or provider of their choice.
"Adding to the tragedy is the fact that the U.S. Senate has been aware of similar problems for over two years. In April of 2012, Nicholas Tolentino, who was an administrator at the VA Medical Center in Manchester, NH, testified to the Veteran Affairs Committee outlining widespread practices of falsely reporting wait times. At the time, the Senate pledged to do something about it, with the Chairperson even going as far as to say 'This is not something we’re going to hold a hearing on and then leave and go do something else… I don’t want to continue to hear that anybody’s gaming this system'. Unfortunately nothing was ever done.
"Scott Brown served on the Veterans Affairs Committee, and was present at the Tolentino hearing. After hearing the testimony, Senator Brown remarked that the Tolentino testimony was 'mind-boggling'.
"New Hampshire citizens are sick and tired of Washington politicians who provide sound bites but not solutions. Rather than make the tough decision to hold people accountable and change the system immediately so our veterans receive the care they need, Scott Brown failed to lead and left the problem unresolved. No action has been taken and veterans continue to suffer unnecessarily.
"It is absolutely essential that our veterans, their families and caregivers get the full truth about what happened. Our veterans are proud of their VA facilities and often rave about the great care they receive. However, the allegations in this CNN report must be fully investigated. A system-wide review is in order, including VA healthcare facilities in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts so that New Hampshire veterans experience no unwarranted care delays.”