Robert Petzel Resigns A Day After Tough Questioning From Veterans Affairs Committee On VA Deaths And Cover-Up

Eric Shinseki and Robert Petzel
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki (L) and VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel testify before a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on VA health care, on Capitol Hill in Washington May 15, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY HEALTH)

The undersecretary for health in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Robert Petzel, resigned Friday afternoon after more than 40 deaths occurred at a Phoenix VA clinic and waiting list cover-ups were discovered at VA locations across the country.

The revelations come just one day after Petzel and Secretary Eric Shinseki faced tough questions from the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee about deaths at VA facilities. 

“Today, I accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, undersecretary for health in the Department of Veterans Affairs," said Shinseki. "As we know from the veteran community, most veterans are satisfied with the quality of their VA health care, but we must do more to improve timely access to that care. I thank Dr. Petzel for his four decades of service to veterans.”

The testimony, which took place on Thursday, came just three weeks after allegations surfaced that 40 veterans died at a Phoenix hospital while awaiting care and that employees engaged in a scheme to hide records that patients in six states had waited too long for medical attention.

“Today’s announcement from VA regarding Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel’s ‘resignation’ is the pinnacle of disingenuous political doublespeak, said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. "Petzel was already scheduled to retire in 2014 and President Obama has already announced his intention to nominate Petzel’s replacement, so characterizing this as a ‘resignation’ just doesn’t pass the smell test."

And further allegations surfaced on Friday that three officials at a VA clinic in Florida were also placed on administrative leave after VA inspectors discovered secret waiting lists with more than 200 names. 

While the case is the first for a VA facility in Florida, it is the latest in a long line of alleged cover-ups and malpractice at VA hospitals in the United States.  

"Desperate to get ahead of a delays in care crisis that is growing by the day, yet apparently unwilling to take substantive actions to hold any of its leaders accountable for negligence that harms veterans, VA has resorted to what it does best: splitting semantic hairs to create the illusion of accountability and progress," Miller said. "After yesterday’s [Thursday] out-of-touch performance from Sec. Shinseki, I was disappointed. Today, I am even more disillusioned.” 

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