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Arkansas senators say VA in urgent need of fix

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., called last week for rigorous Senate oversight of Veterans Affairs, saying he doubts the VA can fix its health care delivery system on its own.

Boozman, who is home recovering from heart surgery, issued a statement last Thursday outlining his concerns with the VA as Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki appeared before a Senate panel to discuss the scandal.

As many as 40 veterans have reportedly died waiting to get appointments at VA’s Phoenix division, where press accounts claim records were altered to conceal long wait times. Long wait times have also allegedly plagued VA facilities in South Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Washington.

“Any allegation, any adverse incident like this makes me mad as hell,” Shinseki told the committee.

An internal review is under way in Arizona that includes the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department, he said.

Boozman, a member of the committee, sent a letter to Shinseki in advance of Thursday’s hearing asking for his “explicit assurance” that VA medical centers serving Arkansas veterans are not manipulating data to hide long wait times.

Boozman also issued a statement expressing his reservations about VA’s ability to produce meaningful reforms through “face to face” audits.

“I am supportive of rigorous oversight by this committee and I look forward to working with all of my colleagues … to ensure that these systemic problems are fixed,” Boozman said.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., also issued a statement on Thursday calling for legislative action to reform VA’s disability claims process.

Pryor said that a backlog in processing disability claims has left thousands of Arkansas veterans waiting for years to receive their earned benefits.

“The VA needs more than a few minor changes to its flawed claims system — it needs a complete overhaul,” Pryor said.

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