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VA chief orders nationwide audit of care

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At least six veterans died and 16 fell ill in a Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said occurred from February 2011 to November 2012. But a Tribune-Review investigation found alarmingly high levels of Legionella in the VA's water system as far back as 2007 at the University Drive hospital in Oakland.

“As you know, management shortfalls also led to the loss of life for veterans at the Pittsburgh VA system,” U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki (right) in a letter released Thursday.

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, May 8, 2014, 9:03 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A House committee voted on Thursday to subpoena records relating to the Phoenix veterans hospital's waiting list.

Meanwhile, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has ordered a nationwide audit of access to care that the agency provides. He brushed aside calls for his resignation and got an unexpected political lifeline from House Speaker John Boehner.

“I'm not ready to join the chorus of people calling on him to step down,” Boehner said, although there is a “systemic management issue throughout the VA that needs to be addressed.”

The American Legion and some in Congress have called for Shinseki's ouster based on allegations that 40 patients died when they didn't get care in time at the Phoenix VA hospital and that the hospital hid the delays.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously to subpoena all records in which VA officials might have discussed destruction of a hospital “wait list.”

A top VA official told congressional staff last month that a “secret list” referred to in news reports might have been the hospital's “interim list.”

Shinseki answered in a letter on Wednesday that VA employees used “transitory or interim notes ... for reference purposes” as they were moving information to the new electronic waitlist system. Regulations require that such notes be destroyed when they are no longer needed for reference.

Dissatisfied with his response, the committee subpoenaed all records on the destruction and gave Shinseki until 9 a.m. May 19 to produce them.

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