VA overseer sent to Phoenix
PHOENIX — President Obama's choice to help carry out reforms at the Veterans Affairs Department will travel to Phoenix this week to meet with staff at the local VA office as pressure mounts in Washington for an overhaul of the beleaguered agency.
Obama announced last week that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors would be assigned to the VA as a result of allegations of delayed care that may have led to patient deaths and a cover-up by top administrators in Phoenix. Similar claims have been reported at VA facilities in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Georgia, Missouri, Texas, Florida and elsewhere.
Nabors was meeting on Tuesday in Washington with representatives of several veterans' organizations, including the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, among others. He will meet on Thursday with officials at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Medical Center, including with interim director Steve Young, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Young took over in Phoenix after director Sharon Helman was placed on leave indefinitely while the Office of Inspector General investigates claims raised by several former VA employees that Phoenix administrators kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide delays in care.
A former clinic director for the VA in Phoenix first came out publicly with the allegations in April. Dr. Samuel Foote, who retired in December after nearly 25 years with the VA, says that up to 40 veterans may have died while awaiting treatment at the Phoenix hospital. Investigators say they have so far not linked any patient deaths in Phoenix to delayed care.
The allegations have sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill and some calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation. The VA's undersecretary for health care, Robert Petzel, has stepped down.
Republicans denounced the move as a hollow gesture, since Petzel had been scheduled to retire.