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Amid VA Scandal, Audit Finds San Diego Healthcare System In Compliance

An audit of the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System found it is operating in compliance with agency standards for patient scheduling, VA officials said Thursday.

The findings came from a review conducted last week amid an uproar over allegations that as many as 40 veterans in Phoenix died while awaiting care. Representatives from other VA medical centers performed the audit, according to VA San Diego spokeswoman Cynthia Butler.

A separate investigation now underway into scheduling practices at 26 VA facilities by the Office of the Inspector General does not include San Diego, according to local officials with the agency.

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In a statement, the VA San Diego Healthcare System said it "prides itself in being the only healthcare organization in the area dedicated to providing high quality, timely care to veterans in San Diego and Imperial counties.''

"As evidenced by the results of a recent external scheduling review, VA San Diego Healthcare System consistently schedules patients in compliance with national Veteran Health Administration standards,'' the statement said.

"Nine out of 10 of our scheduling clerks are veterans themselves and have been trained on proper scheduling practices and are audited at least monthly to ensure compliance.''

According to the statement, the majority of new patients are seen within 14 days, with all new patients seen within three months of the date of enrollment. More than 99 percent of existing primary care patients and 98 percent of specialty care patients are seen within 14 days of their desired appointment date, the statement said.

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he sent Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors to Phoenix to oversee the investigation. He has stood by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, despite calls for him to resign.

In a statement posted on the VA website, Shinseki acknowledged the allegations and said the administration is thoroughly investigating the issue:

Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio calls for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in a tweet, May 21, 2014.

"As President Obama said, Veterans have 'done their duty, and they ask nothing more than that this country does ours—that we uphold our sacred trust to all who have served.' And, we will."

In San Diego, congressional candidate Carl DeMaio called for Shinseki to step down.

"It's evident that Secretary Shinseki does not possess the ability to lead the VA in such a way that any member of the military or their family members can have confidence that they will be treated,'' DeMaio said. "The idea that even one veteran — let alone 40 — may have died as a result of having to wait inappropriate lengths to receive treatment is abhorrent andshould not be tolerated or excused.''

He called for "swift and immediate action'' to ensure the health and well-being of veterans.

His opponent, incumbent Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, voted in favor of a bill this week that would give the VA secretary more flexibility over the employment status of senior executives.

"Too often the VA is failing to keep our nation's promise to veterans and their families, as was evidenced again recently by reprehensible mismanagement at the Phoenix VA facility,'' Peters said. "Thankfully, San Diego's VA centers have performed better than most and the backlog of benefits claims has been significantly reduced in our region.''

He said the demand for VA services is increasing as servicemen transition into civilian life. Congress needs to provide the agency with adequate resources, he said.

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