Lawmakers scrutinize VA facilities after recent deaths

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers grilled the Department of Veterans Affairs over what appear to be disastrous failures at a number of VA hospitals.

Recent deaths at VA facilities in Georgia, Arkansas and West Virginia have prompted criminal investigations, as well as allegations of negligence and murder.

Congressman Chris Pappas, D-New Hampshire, said the system must change.

“Veterans have been let down by the VA,” Pappas said. “If this doesn’t move the needle and cause the bureaucracy to look at their policies, then I don’t know what will.”

Lawmakers took aim at the VA policies and hiring practices that are allowing unqualified medical workers to provide treatment to veterans.

“Our servicemembers should feel safe and comfortable seeking care at the VA,” Congresswoman Carol Miller, D-West Virginia, said.

Miller spoke about 11 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia – two of which are being investigated as homicides.

“There needs to be additional oversight of clinicians proper removal of bad actors and monitoring of care,” Miller said.

The VA defended its medical care overall but admitted some serious problems.

“I am sorry for any pain that any veteran or their families have experienced as a result of our employees acting inappropriately,” Acting Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health at Veterans Health Administration Dr. Steven Lieberman said.

But Congressman Mark Takano, D-California, said saying “I’m sorry” isn’t nearly enough.

“We need to look at the systemic remedies,” Takano said.

Takano said the VA must be sure its physicians have the proper training to care for its patients.