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In his first formal meeting with veterans groups Wednesday, acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson promised quick action on the department’s wait times scandal and efforts to restore veterans’ trust in the system.
Gibson — largely unknown to the veterans’ community — took over the $162 billion department last weekend after the resignation of Eric Shinseki. That came after weeks of controversy over veterans’ medical appointment wait times nationwide, spurred initially by reports that administrators in Phoenix falsified records to ensure they received performance bonuses.
Gibson is scheduled to travel to Phoenix on Thursday to further address the problems, but met with select veterans’ groups a day in advance to talk about efforts so far.
Those include working to schedule appointments for almost 1,700 veterans left off the Phoenix VA system’s official books, and offering explanations for past problems.
“No veteran should have to wait for the quality health care they have earned and deserve,” Gibson said in a statement after the meeting. “The inspector general confirmed we have real issues when it comes to patient scheduling and access, and we have moved immediately to address those issues in Phoenix.
“Getting this right is our top priority, and taking care of the veterans in Phoenix is a good place to start. The department will also continue reaching out to veterans nationwide to accelerate their access to care.”
Gibson was appointed VA deputy secretary just three months ago, following stints in the banking industry and as the head of the USO. The White House has said it is looking for a permanent replacement for Shinseki, but have also vowed to give Gibson the resources he needs to address the department’s immediate problems.
The veterans groups invited to the sit-down with the acting secretary were the American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America.