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VA under investigation for lengthy wait times, resulting in 40 patients dying
At least two US senators are now calling for an investigation into claims that 40 veterans in Arizona died while awaiting VA Medical Center appointments.
A Veterans Affairs panel in congress first reported the concerns last week.
The panel discovered evidence that VA workers in Phoenix kept two sets of records to hide lengthy wait times.
A former doctor claims 14- to 16-hundred veterans were forced to wait months for care.
"So the only record that you-- have ever been there requesting care was on that secret list. And they wouldn't take you off that secret list until you had an appointment time that was less than 14 days so it would give the appearance that they were improving greatly the waiting times when in reality it had been six, nine, in some cases 21 months."
The VA in Phoenix denies knowing of any patients who died while awaiting care.
But VA care as a whole is under a lot scrutiny.
As special correspondent Kai Jackson explains, for all too many veterans the last casualty of war is happening here -- at home
Nearly two thousand flags were recently planted on the National Mall in Washington.
Each represents a veteran that has committed suicide in just the first three months of this year
"What you are seeing is a lot of veterans sort of not knowing where to turn to or now knowing what to do."
How is it that more veterans die by their own hands each year than were killed during the more than decade long war in Afghanistan?
The Department of Veterans Affairs core value as promulgated by Abraham Lincoln is "to care for him who shall have borne the battle.....".
The VA is clearly failing veterans says congressman Scott Perry.
But Perry, himself a veteran, says mental health issues are far too complex to hold the VA singularly accountable.
"There is a solution to this and it is incumbent upon us to honor their service and to find the solution."
"Studies show veterans that take part in VA sponsored healthcare have a lower rate of suicide.
But only 58 percent of new veterans enroll for healthcare at the VA."
"A lot of these service members and veterans live in sort of rural parts of the state. So, to ask them to just hop in a car and drive two, three, four hours to a medical facility is just not feasible.
Many veterans no longer qualify for healthcare because eligibility expires five years from the time they leave active duty.
And the VA's research shows veterans over the age of 50 commit 69 percent of all military suicides.
Congressman Perry says right from the start we fail enlistees by not offering what could save their lives - - a mental health competency test .
"We are literally going to hand them a rifle, firearm and give them the best, most complicated training in the world without checking whether they are really capable of handling what they are about to embark on."
As many as one in five soldiers report having mental health issues before enlisting for service. That's the almost identical to the number of veterans that now commit suicide.
The Department of Veterans Affairs did not respond to a request for an interview.