VA inspector general's office was reportedly told of wait lists months before scandal broke

The office of the Veterans Administration's Inspector General had launched an investigation into claims that the VA's Albuquerque hospital was hiding the length of time patients were made to wait for treatment months before a similar scandal was made public at the VA's Phoenix facility, according to a published report.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Friday that the Inspector General's office had started an inquiry after receiving complaints from employees that wait times were being falsified by officials. However, the paper said that the status of the investigation was unclear.

On Sunday, The Daily Beast, citing an unnamed doctor at the Albuquerque VA hospital, reported that patients faced an eight-month wait to get ultrasounds of their hearts, and a four-month wait to see a cardiologist, with some dying before they could receive the results of their examinations.

The report said that there was no proof that veterans had actually died waiting for treatment, as was allegedly the case at the hospital in Phoenix where lists were also kept. However, the doctor told the website that officials are trying to hide any evidence of a waiting list's existence. The steps being taken reportedly include removing or renaming databases.

"When everyone found out the [inspector general] was doing the audit, the word I heard was 'make sure nothing is left out in the open,'" the VA doctor told The Daily Beast. "And that ranged from make sure there's no food out to make sure there’s no information out in the open."

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    The reports of secret waiting lists have led to an investigation by the VA's inspector general and the resignation Friday of Dr. Robert Petzel, the VA's undersecretary for health. However, critics have said that the Obama administration's response has not been strong enough, due in part to the fact that Petzel was already planning to retire.