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VA Official: No Deaths Due to Wait Times

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(CNN) — A soon-to-be-released inspector general’s report finds that a waiting list is not the cause of any deaths at the VA facility in Phoenix, a Department of Veterans Affairs official said Tuesday.

The department’s Office of Inspector General confirmed to CNN that its report into excessive wait times and delays in care at the Phoenix facility will be released at 1:30 p.m. ET.

The department will have a formal response after the report is released.

CNN has long been reporting about delays in care of VA facilities nationwide. In November 2013, a CNN investigation showed that veterans were dying because of long wait times and delays. In January, CNN reported that at least 19 veterans had died because of delays in simple medical screenings like endoscopies and colonoscopies, according to an internal document from the VA that CNN obtained exclusively.

CNN has reported for months on scheduling problems at VA facilities nationwide.

In April, retired VA physician Dr. Sam Foote told CNN that the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system kept a secret list of patient appointments that was intended to hide that patients were waiting months to be treated. At least 40 patients died while waiting for appointments, according to Foote, though it is not clear if they were all on secret lists.

In June, a VA scheduling clerk in Phoenix, Pauline DeWenter, told CNN that records of deceased veterans were changed or physically altered, some even in recent weeks, to hide how many people died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA hospital.

Concerns about other facilities kept popping up in nationwide stories. Employees at VA centers in Wyoming, Texas and North Carolina alleged that there was a concerted effort to hide long wait times.

In May, the inspector general said it was going to investigate 26 VA facilities.

A June 9 internal audit of hundreds of Veterans Affairs facilities revealed that 63,869 veterans enrolled in the VA health care system in the past 10 years had yet to be seen for an appointment.

By the end of May, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, a decorated Vietnam veteran, had resigned. In July, former corporate CEO and former Army officer Robert McDonald was confirmed by the Senate to replace Shinseki.

McDonald vowed to make changes.

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