U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District wrote a letter Monday to U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General Eric Holder concerning reports of mismanagement at the Albuquerque Veterans Affairs (VA) facility and mistreatment of veterans.
In the letter, Luján highlights the similarities in problems that have been exposed in Phoenix and in Albuquerque and the fact that DOJ is actively investigating the Phoenix VA facility, and should consider expanding its investigation to Albuquerque if necessary.
Below is the text of the letter:
Last week, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey confirmed that the FBI Phoenix Division is actively investigating criminal allegations within the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System. As you are aware, whistle-blowers within this facility have alleged that VA staff has falsified patient scheduling records in order to make them appear shorter and thus obtain financial performance bonuses. Most troubling, these whistle-blowers believe that a number of veterans have passed away before their first appointment due to these fraudulent scheduling procedures.
Following the revelations at the Phoenix facility, additional whistle-blowers at VA health centers around the nation revealed that the problems at the Phoenix facility were widespread throughout the system. At the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque, leaked records revealed that more than 1,760 patients who needed a primary care physician were assigned to a medical supervisor who does not treat patients on a “phantom” waiting list. A subsequent audit of this panel revealed that at least 21 of the veterans listed passed away as they awaited medical treatment. In addition, the recent VA national audit found that nearly 3,500 veterans have had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment at this facility.
Due to the similarities in the practices and procedures of the Albuquerque VA Hospital to those in Phoenix, it is my belief that the investigation by the FBI may need to be expanded to include both facilities. I am outraged by the systematic neglect of these veterans by the very health providers who are entrusted with their care, and believe that, should criminal activity be found, it be punished with the fullest extent of the law.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.