PHOENIX - More than a hundred veterans gathered at Steele Indian School Park this afternoon, many of them angry, following claims by the House Committee for Veteran Affairs last week that as many as 40 deaths at the Phoenix VA was result of healthcare not being provided in a timely manner.
The rally's organizer, Concerned Veterans for America, is now pushing for a federal bill to allow the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to fire underperforming VA managers for cases like this.
"It's just a simple reform that will give people the ability to remove bad managers."
32 year-old Army Veteran Matthew Wirts, who attended the rally, suffered a severe back injury in 2007, falling 70 feet to the ground during a repelling exercise. He claims the Phoenix VA refuses to acknowledge the severity of his injury and won't conduct surgery.
"They throw pain medication at me. They throw inflammatories and muscle relaxers," he said.
Both Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake have asked for an investigation by the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee into these allegations. Both men plan to speak during a joint press conference this Friday at Sen. Mccain's office.
Below is a statement regarding the matter from the Phoenix VA by spokesperson Scott McRoberts:
As the hospital director at the Phoenix VA, I have taken great pride in being part of a community that is committed to VA's mission, to care for those who have served.
The Phoenix VA Medical Center is proud to serve over 78,128 Veterans every year. The care of Veterans remains our primary focus. They have earned and deserve high quality health care and we are proud to provide it.
It is disheartening to hear allegations about Veterans care being compromised, and we are open to any collaborative discussion that assists in our goal to continually improve patient care.
Our staff conducts themselves in accordance with the values that everyone would expect of federal employees, especially those who are serving Veterans.
VA provides unparalleled transparency and our system of care undergoes multiple external reviews to ensure its safety and quality. We are open to a full and impartial investigation regarding these allegations and have invited the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) to immediately investigate these allegations. If the OIG finds areas that need to be improved, we will swiftly address them as our goal is to provide the best care possible to our Veterans. If a Veteran or a family member has concerns about the care we provided, we encourage them to call the patient advocate at 602-277-5551, ext. 6171 or 6172.