Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday called for a closer investigation into Alaska veterans’ health care -- just 10 days after a federal audit found the state’s clinics have some of the lowest wait times in the Veterans Administration system in the country.
In the time since the results of the audit were released, some veterans and their families contacted news organizations to say they disagree with the findings. They did experience long wait times, they said, and worse.
One Alaska woman told Channel 2 her husband died while waiting more than five months for the VA to approve his treatment for cancer.
In her letter to the VA’s inspector general, Murkowski named two Alaska VA clinics.
One is the Wasilla clinic, which no longer has a full-time doctor or nurse. Three years ago, a veteran also shot and killed himself in that clinic’s parking lot, although it’s unknown whether his suicide was related to lack of medical care at the VA.
Murkowski also calls for a closer look into the Anchorage VA, where a former doctor said she was told to schedule fake appointments to make overall wait times seem shorter.
“The whole 13 months I was on the wait list, they said I was only on for three months,” said James Rhodes, an Air Force veteran who said he suffered neurological damage from working with jet fuel. “My math is September 2012 I went in, October 2013 I got a primary care doctor."
Multiple calls and emails to the Alaska VA for comment on Murkowski’s request for further investigation weren't returned.
In a news release last week, the Alaska VA highlighted data from the national audit that reports veterans in the state “have good access to care compared with many other areas.”