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Congressmen want Phoenix VA health chief out

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Top leaders at the Phoenix VA are being asked to resign by three Arizona congressmen after allegations that as many as 40 people may have died while on waiting lists -- and that the Phoenix VA kept a secret waiting list to hide actual wait times.

Multiple investigations are now underway.

We have heard from Arizona's senators and Democratic members of Congress, but these congressmen are taking things a step further.

They want Director Sharon Helman and her top staff to resign.

Helman told us a little over a week ago that she didn't direct staff to keep any kind of secret waiting list.

Congress is already investigating and so is the VA's office of Inspector General, but essentially, the congressmen are saying the damage is already done.

Congressman David Schweikert wrote the letter after meeting with patients as well as former and current VA staffers.  In addition to Director Helman, he also sent the letter to the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs.

The letter was also signed by Matt Salmon and Trent Franks.  Part of it reads, "Our nation's service members and veterans should feel confident in our veteran health care system.  Sadly, you and senior leadership at the PVAHCS have shattered that trust with our nation's heroes."

Congressman Schweikert is in Washington, D.C. and I spoke to him Tuesday afternoon.

"What I came to realize is that there is a crisis of faith.  There is no trust right now in the administration there," he said. 

The Inspector General's office is investigating this now. Did you Schweikert feel like he should see what the results were of that investigation before calling for a resignation?

"That's a great question. We also have our House investigation going on.. much of the press is also digging in.. You hit this inflection point.  Can the system really work? Reaching out to the veterans community and the staff there at the Phoenix VA and have the crisis of faith that is going on right now.. the system, I don't believe will work when you don't trust the facility and you don't trust the facility's leadership," he replied.

VA’s formal response to the congressmen’s calls for resignations:

Susan Bowers, VISN 18 Director:
"Patient care is our top priority which is why we asked for the Office of Inspector General to investigate these very serious allegations. The IG will conduct a full and thorough review of these allegations and we will take action on what they find in the course of their investigation.
"

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