A VA Secret wait list in Phoenix is being denied by top officials, and they denied that delays in care caused the deaths of U.S. veterans at the facility. However, a top VA physician says officials are lying to cover up.
Several other off-record sources inside the Phoenix VA agreed with Dr. Sam Foote.
Sources told CNN the managers at the VA concocted an elaborate scheme to cover up long wait times there. The sources said more than 1,400 vets were placed on the purported secret list and that documents were shredded to hide the evidence. According to sources, at least 40 U.S veterans died waiting for care at the facility, many of whom were on the list.
These issues raised in CNN’s exclusive investigation have quickly drawn attention in Washington.
On Monday, President Barack Obama stated he has called for an investigation into what has happened in Phoenix.
“The moment we heard about the allegations around these 40 individuals who had died in Phoenix, I immediately ordered the secretary of Veterans Affairs, Gen. (Eric) Shinseki, to investigate,” he said.
In recent days, numerous members of Congress have called for hearings on the Phoenix VA. At least three members of Congress have publicly called for the resignation of Sharon Helman, the Phoenix VA director.
But in an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Helman and her chief of staff, Dr. Darren Deering, denied any secret effort to cover up or hide wait times.
“We have never instructed our staff to create a secret list, to maintain a secret list, to shred a secret list — that has never come from our office as far as instruction to our staff,” said Deering.
“It’s never come from me,” added Helman.
Only hours later, watching Helman and Deering make those statements to CNN, Foote shook his head in disbelief.
“Are you kidding?” asked Foote incredulously.
The 24-year VA physician and clinic director, who recently retired and went public with the details of the list, went on the air publicly for the first time with CNN one week ago.
“They started this secret list in February of 2013,” Foote continued. “At some time, they changed over from paper to electronic, in early summer, maybe approximately June or July. And transferred names over to the electronic waiting list. And she [Helman] was called on an ethics consult evaluation about that — it’s written down, documented in July.”
The e-mails Foote referred to were reported by CNN in its original Phoenix VA story last week. The e-mails from July 2013 show that top management, including Helman, were well-aware about the actual wait times, knew about the off-the-books list and even defended its use to her staff.