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Hearing vowed on Phoenix VA claims

| Thursday, April 24, 2014, 8:51 p.m.

PHOENIX — Growing concerns about allegations of gross mismanagement and neglect at the Phoenix VA Health Care Center have resulted in a commitment by the chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee to hold a hearing, members of Arizona's congressional delegation said on Thursday.

Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake raised concerns last week and again on Wednesday. Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva and Kyrsten Sinema joined the effort on Thursday, calling for an independent investigation.

Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, chairman of the committee, said the hearing will follow an investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General. A team of investigators is in Phoenix, and an objective inquiry is needed before any kind of informed deliberation can happen, Sanders said.

“Congress must fulfill its responsibilities to get to the truth without delay,” McCain and Flake said in a statement. “Our nation has a duty to provide the best quality of care to those who have served and sacrificed on our behalf, and we must hold accountable anyone who would break that solemn obligation.”

The lawmakers described the allegations of delays in care, gross mismanagement, neglect and false recordkeeping at the medical center as “deeply disturbing.”

Sinema was in Tucson on Thursday to participate in a House Committee on Veterans Affairs field hearing focused on mental health care and traumatic brain-injury treatment for veterans. Too many returning veterans are not getting the support and care they need, she said.

“To learn of additional allegations that veterans who have served our country have been and are still denied lifesaving treatments is simply unacceptable,” Sinema said.

Recently, the chairman of the House committee said the panel's investigators concluded as many as 40 veteran deaths in Arizona could be related to delays in care.

Phoenix VA Health Care System officials said they have asked for an external review by the Inspector General and will address any problems quickly.

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