Pryor, Cotton Weigh In On VA Director Resignation (UPDATED)

by KATV Channel 7 ([email protected]) 149 views 

Sen. Mark Pryor met with Central Arkansas VA Director Michael Winn Thursday. Pryor’s office told Channel 7 News that Pryor asked Winn specifically about the issues the inspector general is investigating in Phoenix.

An investigation revealed the VA hospital in Phoenix covered up the wait times veterans experienced at the hospital.

According to notes from Thursday’s closed door meeting and a spokesperson from the Little Rock VA, the director said the Little Rock hospital did undergo a recent audit.

After the audit, a summary of visits was submitted to the inspector general and the VA central office in Washington, D.C.  Though they have not received the final report card, to the director’s knowledge, the Little Rock VA is not one of the hospitals being further investigated and there have been no issues comparable to the situation in Phoenix.

A spokesperson for the VA said they always hope to improve the amount of time a veteran waits to receive care.

Korean War veteran Joe Holland of Little Rock, told Channel 7 News he went to the Little Rock VA emergency room for hip pain in August, but had to wait until October before seeing the doctor he needed for care.

“That appointment was made for that particular doctor and it took three months. Three months,” Holland said.

At the end of October, when he finally saw the doctor, it was determined he would need rehab.

“Whoever made the appointment made it sixty days away, so I had to wait another two months,” Holland said.

Holland said when he finally got the care he needed by December, he had experienced a lot of pain in those five months.

“I would call and ask could they speed it up any and they’d say no. Can’t do it. And there’s just no way to deal with it. I just simply couldn’t get any help for it. I even went back to the emergency room one day, it got so bad,” Holland said.

Thursday both Sen. Pryor and his challenger Congressman Tom Cotton spoke out on the Phoenix VA issue.

“I am very upset with everything I’m hearing out of the VA, especially the Phoenix VA. It’s just inexcusable. We owe our veterans more than that,” Pryor said at a press conference. When asked if he would call for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, Pryor said he would wait to see how wide spread the problem was and what Shinseki knew.

“In terms of Shinseki’s resignation, my view on that is not yet. I’m not gonna call for that yet,” Pryor said.

Cotton, an Army veteran, said the Phoenix situation is not the kind of treatment veterans deserve.

“I called for Sec. Shinseki’s resignation last week. These problems didn’t start under him, but he’s been in office for five years, there’s clearly a leadership mindset and cultural problem at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs,” Cotton said.

Cotton said he had talked with VA offices in Arkansas and requested wait times.

“Right now it doesn’t appear we have the same kind of scheduling fraud that has occurred in Phoenix and probably in other places around the country, Cotton said.

KATV’s Elicia Dover has more in this news report and in the video interview at the bottom of this post.

UPDATE: On Friday (May 30), President Obama accepted Shinseki’s resignation.

Cotton issued a statement on the development.

“Secretary Shinseki’s resignation is an overdue first step toward the reforms needed to get our veterans the care they deserve. I’m disappointed that, as usual, Senator Pryor stuck with President Obama until the very end, but even the President realized Secretary Shinseki needed to resign. Our veterans and all Arkansans need a senator who will lead, not one who will defer to Barack Obama,” Cotton said.

Pryor issued the following statement:

“Secretary Shinseki is a decorated war hero, and there’s no question he cares deeply about our veterans after 40 years wearing our nation’s uniform. I respect his service to our country, and I respect his decision today to step down as VA Secretary in light of the disturbing treatment of veterans at facilities in Arizona and elsewhere. It’s clear there’s a lack of integrity within the VA system and we need to fix it immediately. We have a long road ahead, but I will deliver on my promise to get to the bottom of this for Arkansas veterans.”