Whistleblower reacts to McCain's idea on VA reform

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by Natalie Brand

azfamily.com

Posted on May 10, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Updated Saturday, May 10 at 10:58 AM

PHOENIX -- VA reform cannot come quickly enough for the hundreds of veterans coming forward with allegations of delayed care and mistreatment by the hospital.

On Friday, Sen. John McCain held a packed town hall meeting on the issue. Emotions ranged from tearful to confrontational at times.

“I want to know, are you really going to do something?” one veteran yelled at McCain. “Is something going to get done, or is this going to go on forever?”

A McCain spokesman says since January 2013, his office has handled more than 2,000 requests for assistance from veterans.

VA doctor turned whistleblower Dr. Sam Foote also reached out to McCain’s office regarding alleged corruption at the Phoenix VA.

Foote says he first detected trouble about four years ago and wrote multiple letters to the Inspector General’s Office.

Whistleblowers allege delayed care and a “secret waiting list” resulted in the deaths of at least 40 veterans.

Top officials at the Phoenix VA denied the allegations, and a massive investigation by the Inspector General’s Office is currently underway but may take months to complete.

“The problem that started all the shenanigans here is that there’s a fundamental huge mismatch between demand for care and the Phoenix VA’s ability to provide it,” Foote told 3TV. “I suspect Phoenix VA isn’t the only one suffering through this right now."

Foote says administration at the Phoenix VA must change to restore confidence.

“First thing you need to do when you have a problem is admit you have one; the second thing you need to do is get as many brains and eyes on it,” Foote said.

“Clearly they’re going to need to be more efficient with their resources and they may have to rethink just how many services they want to offer,” Foote said. “You can’t have some people having caviar when others are starving.”

During the town hall, McCain suggested exploring a pilot program in which veterans could seek health care outside of the VA in certain instances.

“It is one possible solution,” said Foote, commenting on the senator’s idea. “It is an expensive one and it can be very difficult to implement logistically. In some places, like Phoenix, that just doesn’t have a lot of space at the medical center, that might be an option that’s viable.”

“Do you have an easy solution?” asked 3TV reporter Natalie Brand.

“No, there is not an easy solution,” Foote replied.

Meanwhile, the American Legion is hosting another town hall meeting for veterans on Tuesday, May 13 at 7 p.m. at American Legion Post 41 at 715 S. 2nd Ave. in Phoenix. It is open to the public.

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