- (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
A new report on the ongoing Veterans Affair scandal has revealed that another 18 veterans who were kept off an official electronic appointment list have since died.
According toFox News, Acting V.A. Secretary Sloan Gibson, who replaced Eric Shinseki following his resignation last week, said that the inspector general is going to investigate whether these deaths were related to the long wait times.
"The President expects us to move out, and that is what we're going to do, and whether I am here for a week, or a month, or two years," Gibson said Thursday, according to MyFoxPhoenix.com. "Every day, every minute, that I am here we are going to make dust."
News initially broke in April that at least 40 U.S. veterans had died after being stuck for months on a secret waiting list to see doctors in the Phoenix V.A. Healthcare system.
An inspector general's report later added that around 1,700 veterans are currently waiting for care and are "at risk of being lost or forgotten" after being kept off an official waiting list.
President Barack Obama has spoken out strongly on the issue, saying that the nation's V.A. system needs to be fixed.
"I want to know what's working, I want to know what's not working, and I want specific recommendations," Obama said at the news conference in May.
"Folks who have been fighting on the battlefield should not have to fight a bureaucracy at home to get the care that they have earned."
Shinseki has accepted responsibility for the scandal, and said that the V.A. system has a "systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity within some of our veteran health facilities."
"The breach of trust involved the tracking of patient wait times for appointments," he added.
There has reportedly been progress on the issue, however, as senior senators reached an agreement on Thursday to work on a bipartisan bill that would make it easier for veterans to get the help that they need outside V.A. clinics.
The bill would let the V.A. immediately fire as many as 450 senior regional executives and hospital administrators for poor performance. The bill resembles a measure passed last month by the House but includes a 28-day appeal process omitted by the House legislation.
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), one of the senators who announced the bill, said that it was "a way to help to relieve this terrible tragedy that has befallen our nation's veterans."