Shinseki Pressed By Senate Panel On VA Hospital Delays

Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is trying to get to the bottom of claims that veterans are waiting months for medical appointments. VA hospitals say everyone is being seen within 14 days.

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Yesterday, the secretary of Veterans Affairs had to answer some questions on Capitol Hill. Eric Shinseki told lawmakers he's trying to get to the bottom of a problem. Veterans say they are waiting months for medical appointments. But VA hospitals say everyone is being seen within just 14 days. Both can't be right.

NPR's Quil Lawrence has our report.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Senators from both parties grilled Shinseki about wait-times. Democrat Patty Murray said year after year, VA hospitals work around the rules to make their performance look better than it is.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY: Gaming is so prevalent that as soon as new directives are put out they're torn apart to see how to get around the required. They need a culture change.

ERIC SHINSEKI: Shinseki urged Senators to wait for the results of an investigation by the VA's inspector general. But he acknowledged he needs veterans to trust the system.

DANIEL DELLINGER: That's our mission, we only have one mission is taking care of these veterans, and not these veterans - I'm one of them - 100,000 veterans work at VA are veterans. We have a vested interest here.

When are things going to get better?

LAWRENCE: That's American Legion commander Daniel Dellinger.

DELLINGER: It seems that a day cannot pass without a news report about the problems and difficulties the VA faces with delays in quality of care challenges.

LAWRENCE: Dellinger testified after Shinseki. The American Legion has asked Shinseki to step down.

Other Vets groups say the Secretary is making progress and should stay. they're all asking for quick action on the problem of wait times. The question is whether it gets fixed faster with Shinseki in charge or with a new boss.

Quil Lawrence, NPR News.

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