Senators to Justice Dept.: investigate VA criminal wrongdoing

This May 19, 2014 photo shows a a sign in front of the Veterans Affairs building in Washington, D.C. KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Twenty-one senators from both parties are calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether there was criminal wrongdoing at the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities across the country that failed to provide timely care to the nation's veterans.

The letter, authored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., along with 19 colleagues, are seeking quick action amid several ongoing reviews being conducted by the VA and the agency's Inspector General (IG).

The VA's internal audit, released Monday, showed that more than 57,000 veterans had been waiting for up to three months for a medical appointment, and that an additional 64,000 who enrolled in the agency's health care over the past decade may have never been seen by a doctor. It follows on aninterim inspector general report from the Phoenix VA facility - which made news after 40 veterans reportedly died waiting for care - which found that 1,700 veterans were waiting for a primary care appointment but not found on any waiting list.

"Evidence of secret waiting times, falsification of records, destruction of documents, and other potential criminal wrongdoing has appalled and angered the nation, and imperiled trust and confidence in the Veterans Health Administration," the senators wrote. "While we commend and appreciate the IG's pursuit of his inquiry, an effective and prompt criminal investigation must inevitably involve the resources of the Department of Justice, including the FBI."

The full IG report is expected in August, but the senators said that there needs to be prompt results in "the next few weeks."

The VA's inspector general will pass along any evidence of possible criminal activity to the Justice Department for legal assessment, but so far Justice has maintained a consulting role, including counseling the IG on how to preserve evidence of criminality should there be a further investigation of criminal activity.

"The department continues to consult with the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General regarding their ongoing review. We'll decline to comment on an ongoing matter, but in general the department often consults with inspectors general on legal matters and acts on any referrals should they find sufficient predicate for a criminal investigation," the department said in a statement.

Other signatories to the letter include 10 Democrats and nine Republicans.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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