House, Senate begin compromise talks on vets bill

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House and Senate negotiators are seeking a compromise on legislation to expand health care for veterans, hoping to move quickly in the wake of a scandal that has uncovered long wait times, falsified record-keeping and accusations of criminal activity at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

At their core, separate House and Senate bills would allow millions of former members of the armed forces to seek health care outside the government's veterans system if they are unable to get a timely appointment inside it.

Lawmakers met for opening speeches, sitting around a table a day after the latest indication of a federal agency in deep trouble. In a letter to President Barack Obama, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said the VA shows a troubling pattern of deficient patient care.

A Veterans Affairs hospital employee in Phoenix says there is an ongoing cover-up of patient deaths at the facility.

Scheduling clerk Pauline DeWenter also says she was the person who maintained a "secret list" of veterans who waited months for appointments.

DeWenter spoke with the Arizona Republic Monday and also did interviews with CNN. She told the Republic she has spoken to VA Office of Inspector General investigators about the list, turned over evidence and reported her suspicions of a cover-up.

That cover-up allegedly involves someone changing entries on the records of veterans who died while awaiting care. DeWenter said she entered "deceased" on the records and someone later changed the entry to "entered in error" and "no longer needed." She says some of the changes happened in recent weeks.

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