Updated: 05/29/2014 7:42 AM
Created: 05/28/2014 8:15 PM KSTP.com
By: Cassie Hart
Minnesota members of Congress are calling for new leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
An investigation, initially focused on the Phoenix hospital, found systemic problems in the VA's sprawling nationwide system, which provides medical care to about 6.5 million veterans each year. The interim report confirmed allegations of excessive waiting time for care in Phoenix, with an average 115-day wait for a first appointment for those on the waiting list.
“The Inspector General’s report is so troubling that I have come to the conclusion that the Department of Veterans Affairs needs new leadership,” Minnesota Sen. Al Franken released in a written statement. Franken said he believes it would be in the best interest of veterans for Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down.
“The VA needs to be delivering quality care to our veterans on a timely basis. Clearly there is a systemic problem that this leadership has not been addressing,” Franken wrote.
Franken is calling on the president to use all the resources at his disposal to remedy this disgraceful situation. He said our veterans deserve no less.
Congressman Collin Peterson is also calling for the resignation of Shinseki. "I have come to the conclusion that there needs to be accountability and new leadership and the best step forward is for the Secretary to offer his resignation so we can start fixing the problems where they exist. We have to do better by our veterans."
Minnesota U.S. Reps. Rick Nolan, a Democrat, and John Kline, a Republican, also have called for Shinseki's resignation, as have several GOP candidates in Minnesota, including potential challengers to Franken.
Richard J. Griffin, the department's acting inspector general, wrote in the 35-page report, "While our work is not complete, we have substantiated that significant delays in access to care negatively impacted the quality of care at this medical facility," It found that "inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout" the VA's 1,700 health facilities nationwide, including 150 hospitals and 820 clinics.
Griffin said 42 centers are under investigation, up from 26.
Shinseki called the IG's findings "reprehensible to me, to this department and to veterans." He said he was directing the Phoenix VA to immediately address each of the 1,700 veterans waiting for appointments.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.