VA auditing hospitals and clinics in Nevada


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VA auditing hospitals and clinics in Nevada

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED May 15, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs is facing heavy scrutiny for its treatment of veterans across the nation and in southern Nevada.

Secretary Eric Shinseki was in the hot seat before a Senate committee in Washington on Thursday.

"This is not a job," said Shinseki. "I'm here to accomplish a mission that I think they critically deserve and need."

The secretary faced tough questions from Senators, including Nevada's Dean Heller.

"At some point, I have to ask if these problems in Nevada are the demonstration of failed leadership at the top," said Heller.

Accusations of secret lists and long waits at the VA hospital in Phoenix have led to questions about the treatment of veterans at the local facility in North Las Vegas.

"In Las Vegas, veterans have complained of excess wait times in the emergency rooms, which in itself is too small to meet demand," said Heller.

Contact 13 reported the story of Sandi Niccum, a 78-year-old blind veteran who waited hours for care in October and died about two weeks later. Shinseki told Heller all VA hospitals and clinics in Nevada are being audited.

"In the past five years, we've done a lot to make things better. We're not done yet," said Shinseki, who resisted suggestions that he step down.

Action News has also looked into complaints from veterans about the disability claims backlog. Heller pointed out that Nevada vets have some of the longest wait times in the nation.

"Promises to change and do better for our veterans have not produced results," said Heller. "I want changes. I do not want empty promises."

Shinseki said updated numbers would show the wait times in Nevada have improved.

"I think we should do everything we can to make sure these people get the care they need when they need it," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

Shinseki said he hoped to have a preliminary report on the audit in about three weeks and told Heller he would share the results on the Nevada facilities with the state's Congressional delegation.