WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas VA medical center had an unauthorized waiting list of veterans in need of care that was maintained outside the center’s record system, according to a fax sent to U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran on behalf of the center’s director.
The fax also said that nine veterans waited more than 90 days for appointments with a primary care doctor at the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wichita.
Roberts and Moran said Tuesday they want answers about the status of veterans’ care at the center, and have forwarded all the information to the VA’s Office of Inspector General.
A fax was sent Friday on behalf of Francisco Vasquez, the center’s director. It detailed the number of veterans who had to wait for appointments and acknowledged the existence of the unauthorized waiting list. The Wichita Eagle first reported the fax Monday.
It is not clear whether the nine veterans were on the unauthorized list. Officials from the Wichita VA didn’t immediately respond to questions Tuesday from The Associated Press.
The federal office is conducting a system-wide investigation after an investigation into the Phoenix VA Health Care System found that about 1,700 veterans in need of care were on secret waiting lists. The scandal led to the resignation last week of former Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Roberts, a Republican, said Tuesday he didn’t know how many veterans were on the waiting list and whether they had received care.
“My top priority is who is on that secret list and what is the status of their care?” Roberts said.
Moran is a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and had called for the resignation of Shinseki. The Kansas Republican also has pushed legislation requiring additional accountability for the VA’s health system, including systemic investigations of databases or other impediments to veterans seeking care.
“There have been problems at the VA for a long time,” Moran said Tuesday. “The difference to me it seemed there was always an effort to make things better.”
Roberts was informed of the list after he met with Wichita VA staff and later told a gathering of Wichita Republicans that he was assured there weren’t any issues with the hospital. The senator said he was seeking more answers.
“Either they didn’t know or attempted to mislead me. I don’t think that’s the case. I hope that’s not the case,” Roberts said.
The fax from Vazquez, copies of which were obtained by The Associated Press, said the Wichita VA list was one of 10 found in the Heartland Network, which includes Kansas, Missouri and parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Two of the lists were found to have put veterans at risk, one was the list in Wichita. The fax did not say where the other list was maintained.
The centers that maintained the lists “terminated” the lists and took action to close gaps in access to care, the fax said.