Rep. Walz wants Minnesota VA clinic investigated after report of falsified records

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After an investigative report by KARE 11 found employees at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center falsified records, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz is asking federal agencies to investigate.

In a letter to acting Inspector General Richard Griffin (which you can see embedded below), the Minnesota Democrat asks for verification that the "troubling" allegations detailed in the KARE 11 report are being "fully investigated" by the Office of the Inspector General, and requests to be kept apprised of its progress.

"If these allegations prove true, I was not given the full story from VA officials during my visit to the facilities, and during numerous interactions since," Walz, who serves on the Veterans Affairs Committee, wrote.

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In the detailed KARE 11 report (read and watch the report here), two employees told the station they were instructed to write that patients declined a follow-up treatment, when in reality they'd never been contacted. Some of the cases involved patients with cancer, the employees told KARE.

Both were fired after the falsified reports were brought to higher-ups in the Minneapolis VA, and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating claims they were fired for blowing the whistle, KARE says. The clinic denies that.

More trouble at VA clinics

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been under intense scrutiny since earlier this year, after the inspector general issued a report detailing systemic issues with health care for veterans. Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned May 30 after numerous politicians – including plenty from Minnesota – called for his exit.

Just days later, an investigation into VA wait times by USA Today found only about a third of new patients in Minneapolis, St. Cloud and Sioux Falls got in to see a health care provider within the VA's own 14-day target period for care. The average wait times for new patients at those three locations were 24 days or more.

The Hibbing VA clinic became the target of criticism shortly after that, with reports about high staff turnover, poor communication and trouble getting needed medications such as insulin, the Star Tribune reported. One man, 65-year-old Navy veteran Lonnie Lee, had to wait five months to get the open heart surgery he needed, the paper said.

The problems reportedly cropped up after a new company was hired to run the clinic.

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