WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa today asked the Department of Veterans Affairs for a response to a report in the Omaha World-Herald of unauthorized waiting lists outside the VA patient tracking system for some mental health appointments in Omaha. 

“With mental health, receiving prompt care is crucial, and in severe cases can be a matter of life and death,” Grassley and Ernst wrote to Secretary David Shulkin.  “It is important for veterans and taxpayers to know what role these unauthorized lists played and how they impacted access to care, what types and levels of employees were involved in the decision to establish the list and in operating the list, and what corrective actions and disciplinary measures were applied to make sure this does not happen again.” 

Grassley and Ernst wrote that they appreciated that the VA apparently took action to correct the Omaha situation after learning of it but “the little that was disclosed publicly leaves some unanswered questions.”

In addition to seeking details about how the unauthorized lists affected access to care and employee disciplinary action in this case, Grassley and Ernst sought details about agency “protocols for disciplinary action and how the taxpayers and the public should be kept informed in such instances.”  They also asked for a description of how the unauthorized waiting lists came to light in the Omaha situation and whether the VA has systemic checks and balances to bring such unauthorized waiting lists to the forefront agency-wide.

Grassley and Ernst have long worked to improve veterans services, particularly those involving mental health and suicide prevention.

Their letter is available here.