Dr. Sam Foote seeks an independent review of delays in care at the Phoenix VA
He is scheduled to testify before Congress on Wednesday
Foote's prepared testimony: "This was a conspiracy, possibly criminal"
Foote was the key whistleblower in a CNN investigation into the Phoenix VA
The main whistleblower in the scandal involving the Department of Veterans Affairs has asked for an independent review of delays in care at the Phoenix VA, calling the recent investigation by the Office of Inspector General a “whitewash.”
Dr. Sam Foote, a retired Phoenix VA doctor who will testify before Congress on Wednesday, says the VA’s inspector general has downplayed the way in which employee manipulations of patient wait times contributed to deaths.
“In my opinion, this was a conspiracy, possibly criminal, perpetrated by senior Phoenix leaders,” Foote said in his prepared testimony. “The Inspector General tries to minimize the damage done and the culpability of those involved by stating that none of the deaths can conclusively be tied to treatment delays.”
The report released by the inspector general in August states that no deaths at the Phoenix VA could be “conclusively” linked to long wait times.
CNN has learned the VA’s inspector general told congressional officials in a private briefing in August that 293 veterans died while waiting for care, though the deaths were not said to be caused by delays. That information was not included in the IG report released a few days later. Instead, the report described how 28 veterans had “clinically significant delays” in care, six of whom died.
Foote said the number of veterans who died vastly exceeds his original allegations that 40 veterans died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA.
Ahead of Wednesday’s congressional hearing, the Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin defended the recent investigation but said the report cannot adequately express the personal losses involved.
“Our recent report cannot capture the personal disappointment, frustration and loss of faith of individual veterans and their family members with a health care system that often could not respond to their physical and mental health needs in a timely manner,” Griffin said.
For more than a year, CNN has been investigating and reporting on veterans’ deaths and delays at VA facilities all across the country, including detailed investigations in November and January 2013 examining deaths at two VA facilities in South Carolina and Georgia.
Foote first appeared on CNN in April, with detailed allegations that as many as 40 American veterans had died in Phoenix, waiting for care at the VA.
After Foote’s revelations about Phoenix, numerous other whistleblowers stepped forward with similar charges of veterans’ waiting for care and possible deaths of veterans who were waiting.
The VA’s inspector general opened investigations at 93 sites of care in response to allegations of wait time manipulations.
To date, 12 investigations have been completed but 81 remain active and are being coordinated with the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as appropriate.
In May, after reports of patients dying while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA, Secretary Eric Shinseki was forced to step down. Robert McDonald was appointed this summer to take over the agency.