Phoenix VA Hospital update: House panel to subpoena Shinseki in dying veterans probe

The House Veterans Affairs Committee voted Thursday to subpoena Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in the wake of accusations that his department had deadly delays in health care at some of its hospitals.

The House Committee said Chairman Jeff Miller sent this letter to Secretary Shinseki May 1. The VA provided this response , which does not adequately answer all of Chairman Miller’s questions, hence Thursday's vote to issue a subpoena.

The Shinseki subpoena will cover e-mails that allegedly discussed the destruction of a secret list, first reported by CNN, of veterans waiting for care at a Phoenix VA hospital.

The panel agreed to issue the subpoena in a voice vote Thursday morning.

Shinseki told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that he would not resign over allegations that U.S. veterans died awaiting care at VA hospitals across the country.

"I serve at the pleasure of the president," Shinseki told the newspaper when asked whether he would step down. "I signed on to make some changes. I have work to do."

VA doctor and whistleblower Katherine Mitchell said she was told, "we couldn’t destroy alter or change in any way shape or form anything that can be used as evidence in the investigation."

"I do know there was a destruction of documents from other employees that work in that department,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell says she’s happy Congress is getting involved, but isn’t confident the investigation will go anywhere.

“The administration, at least at my facility, has no problem lying to the OIG or stonewalling Congress. If Congress issued a subpoena for all administrators at the VA, they would find more corruption then they could imagine,” said Mitchell.

At Tuesday's White House daily briefing, press secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama takes seriously the allegations that veterans died waiting for care at the Phoenix VA hospital, Carney said. He repeated that the VA's inspector general is conducting an independent investigation into the allegations.

"The President remains confident in Secretary Shinseki's ability to lead the department and take appropriate action," Carney said, repeating the White House response this week to two veterans groups' calls for Shinseki's ouster.

On Monday, the American Legion, the nation's largest veteran organization, and another veterans group, Concerned Veterans for America, called for Shinseki's resignation.

Those demands followed months of CNN exclusive reporting about U.S. veterans who have died while they waited for treatment at VA hospitals around the country.

The national commander of the American Legion said the group's call for Shinseki's ouster is a very serious gesture.

"It's not something we do lightly. But we do so today because it is our responsibility as advocate for the men and women who have worn this nation's uniform," said Daniel M. Dellinger.

Pete Hegseth, CEO of the Concerned Veterans of America, offered a statement: "We're proud to stand with The American Legion as they take this courageous and historic stand. As America's largest veterans organization, their moral authority on this issue is unimpeachable. We applaud their demands for accountability at the very top of the Department of Veterans Affairs."

CNN has submitted numerous requests for an interview with Shinseki; the secretary has not spoken to reporter Drew Griffin.

On Tuesday, Shinseki said on NPR that he was determined to find out whether the allegations are true.

"Allegations like this get my attention," Shinseki said. "I take it seriously, and my habit is to get to the bottom of it.

"If allegations are substantiated, we'll take swift and appropriate action."

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