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Did delays at the VA medical center lead to deaths?

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) -

An accusation that up to 40 people may have died while being kept on a waiting list to see doctors at the Phoenix VA Medical Center has prompted a congressional investigation.

The investigation found that the hospital staff kept a secret waiting list to conceal wait times from veterans.

Both U.S. Senators from Arizona visited the VA Friday.

The allegations came from the chair of the house Committee on Veterans Affairs in Washington. Now the Inspector General's office is investigating.

In an interview Friday afternoon with FOX10, the head of the Phoenix VA denied knowing anything about all this.
   
"I have never directed staff to do a secret waiting list," said Phoenix VA Medical Director Sharon Helman.

Helman welcomes the inspector general's investigation.
   
"We are going to do everything we can to address these allegations and concerns, and if the inspector general does find anything we will take appropriate and swift action," said Helman.
   
Helman took over leadership of the center two years ago. She and the medical center's chief of staff say the hospital has added staff and built new facilities improving wait times.

"We have a third of our employees who are veterans themselves. They are extremely dedicated to providing that care to them. They have fought for this country, and they deserve the best health care and we are committed to ensuring that they receive that," she said.
   
Since the allegations that as many as 40 people may have died while waiting for care, hospital staff examined their own records.

"So far what we have looked at, we have not any cases that have been directly related to delays in access or care," she said.
   
Friday morning the medical center administration met with both Arizona Senators.

"We have been assured that the VA here is cooperating with the investigation," said Senator Jeff Flake.
   
Both Senators pledged to do whatever it takes to fix any problems.
   
"Never before have I seen have an allegation of the cover up of 40 people dying. This raises it to a level that is unprecedented. That is why we have to use every instrument of government to get to the bottom of this and if it is true, hold those accountable," said Senator John McCain.

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