Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard: Fire Hawaii VA head

Published On: Jun 13 2014 06:28:06 PM HST
Updated On: Jun 13 2014 08:12:43 PM HST

The Veterans Affairs scandal is widening and now there are calls for the head of the VAoffice to be fired. In addition, federal investigators are being asked to probe allegations about misconduct by the staff.

HONOLULU -

The calls, letters and emails about problems at the VA have been pouring into the federal offices of Hawaii's congressional delegation.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz's report.

But some members say their staffers were misled about how long veterans had to wait to get to see doctors for the first time.

 They were told 30 to 45 days when national statistics told a different story---the worst in the country--- at 145 days.

"(Wayne) Pfeffer should be fired due to his dishonesty, lack of integrity, incompetence and his flagrant lack of respect and transparency," U.S. Rep.Tulsi Gabbard wrote In a letter to the VA in Washington, D.C.

Gabbard wasn't satisfied with Pfeffer’s answers when she talked to him directly and pressed for more information.

"My gut is that the problem is much worse, and it goes much deeper," said Gabbard.

Pfeffer went on the defensive Friday, telling KITV  the head office asked that he keep the lid on local numbers. since it planned to release the figures the following week.

"I didn't know the  145-day wait as an absolute number. I knew they were going to release a number and we had a large number of veterans. I didn't know how we ranked nationally. I knew when I came here, I had to open up the access to new patients. There were a lot of people waiting and I have been working on that since  I got here," said Pfeffer.

The Pacific Islands Health Care administrator has been on the job eights months.

In hindsight, he said his answers to staff made things worse.

"Unfortunately that got misconstrued and once the snowball got rolling, it went downhill from there," Pfeffer said.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is also asking the Inspector General's office to look into allegations of misconduct.

Schatz wrote, "...we are told lower and mid-level management personnel are being told to cookthe books regarding patient’s appointments."

"It is causing enough concern that I thought it was best to have someone independent to discover what is really going on," said Shatz.

Pfeffer said he welcomes an independant probe.

"I don't believe in my heart they are going to find anything, but external validation is always good," Pfeffer said.

One veteran who asked us to obscure his identify for fear of retribution said he has been waiting 10 months for his first appointment.

He finally got a response after the VA scandal broke nationally.

"All of a sudden, in the mail the notices come that I have an appointment and so far in three weeks, I have gotten five notifications  by mail and four phone calls," said the Oahu army veteran.

If 10 months seems like a long time, Gabbard said a wounded warrior who works in her office said he has been waiting for his first doctors appointment since April of last year.

Another vet complained to her office that he has been waiting since 2012.

Meanwhile Sentator Mazie Hirono said she has also asked for the inspector general to look into the matter.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said the focus should be on improving the VA, not pointing fingers.

The VA is expected to release more state-by state numbers on veterans services next week.

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