TEMPLE, Texas (AP) – A Texas congressman said Thursday that the FBI will investigate the scheduling of patients at the Veterans Affairs facility in Temple, as veterans hospitals nationwide answer allegations about the manipulation of patient appointments.
U.S. Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock), said he had spoken to FBI Director James Comey, and that agents had since met with his staff.
Carter said he had heard allegations of scheduling appointments being delayed to secure bonuses for managers, as well as papers being shredded to obstruct any investigation.
Michelle Lee, spokeswoman for the FBI’s field office in San Antonio, said Thursday that agents had received information from Carter’s office but could not confirm if they had opened a formal investigation.
Carter accused VA officials of misleading him when he first brought allegations of misconduct to their attention three years ago. He said he realized problems with scheduling appointments persisted after the issue became a national scandal this year and more people came forward to his office.
“When I trust someone to do something and they give every indication that they’ve done it and they don’t, I don’t have a lot of confidence in them,” Carter said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
Carter’s district includes thousands of veterans from Fort Hood, the sprawling military post north of Austin.
He raised the possibility of veterans facing life-threatening conditions not being able to see doctors before it was too late.
“If it caused the death of some people, to me, I think that rises to the level of criminal,” Carter said. “Once again, it depends on all the evidence we get. And that’s why we need the best people we can get.”
Bobby Zimmerman, a spokesman for the Temple VA, said in a statement that officials welcomed any review of scheduling practices.
“We will need the support of all our stakeholders, including our elected officials, to continue to improve the department,” Zimmerman said. “Veterans must feel safe walking into our VA facilities – they deserve to have full faith in their VA.”
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