There was a heated protest outside the VA Medical Center in Phoenix Wednesday afternoon. Veterans were demanding answers about why they are not getting the care they need.
"How many deaths could they have prevented if they would have investigated instead of sitting on it," veteran Steven Shockome angrily asked.
Shockome was one of the many veterans who railed against the Phoenix VA during Wednesday rally. It follows the revelation dozens of VA patients may have died while awaiting medical care.
"In August '07 I got cancer and kept getting denied a biopsy. They were treating me with antibiotics for cancer," Shockome explained.
There were a number of infuriated veterans at the rally like Shockome hoping to get answers to what's described as massive mismanagement in care and scheduling at the Phoenix VA.
"I'm not shocked or surprised about what's happening at the Phoenix VA. Our organization has tracked this all across the country," said Dan Caldwell with Concerned Veterans for America.
He says the only way to fix the VA's issues is through legislation. His group is right now pushing the VA Accountability Act in Washington, D.C.
"This enables the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to fire bad managers. That's all it does," Caldwell said.
U.S. congressman David Schweikert says it's a culture that doesn't exist.
Rhetorically, he asked, "Does senior management get held responsible when they misrepresent data to Congress and they don't tell the public the truth."
At last check, officials had linked 40 Arizona deaths to the scandal. Schweikert says that may only be the beginning.
"Be prepared to see a very different number when the investigation is done," Schweikert said.
Scott McRoberts, a spokesman for the Phoenix VA Health System sent CBS 5 News this statement:
As the hospital director at the Phoenix VA, I have taken great pride in being part of a community that is committed to VA's mission, to care for those who have served. The Phoenix VA Medical Center is proud to serve over 78,128 Veterans every year. The care of Veterans remains our primary focus. They have earned and deserve high quality health care and we are proud to provide it.It is disheartening to hear allegations about Veterans care being compromised, and we are open to any collaborative discussion that assists in our goal to continually improve patient care. Our staff conducts themselves in accordance with the values that everyone would expect of federal employees, especially those who are serving Veterans. VA provides unparalleled transparency and our system of care undergoes multiple external reviews to ensure its safety and quality. We are open to a full and impartial investigation regarding these allegations and have invited the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) to immediately investigate these allegations. If the OIG finds areas that need to be improved, we will swiftly address them as our goal is to provide the best care possible to our Veterans. If a Veteran or a family member has concerns about the care we provided, we encourage them to call the patient advocate at (602) 222-2774.
Veterans deserve to have full faith in their healthcare. We appreciate the continued hard work and dedication of our employees and of the community stakeholders we work with every day in our service to Veterans.
Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake announced they will hold a joint news conference on Friday at noon about the mismanagement and neglect allegations. Both are calling for an congressional investigation and hearings into the controversy.
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