Lawmakers on the House Veterans Affairs Committee vowed Tuesday they would launch a new investigation into the bureaucratic failures that allowed thousands of veterans to die while waiting for healthcare benefits.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., blasted the Department of Veterans Affairs for its "corruption, unaccountability and incompetence" after documents that surfaced on Monday showed nearly one in three veterans waiting to be enrolled in VA healthcare programs died before their applications could be verified.
"This latest scandal will be closely investigated by our Veteran Affairs Committee," Huelskamp told the Washington Examiner.
"We've discovered the unexpected: something longer perhaps even than the list of excuses VA has made for failing our Veterans. Unfortunately, that is the apparent list of deceased veterans who never received the VA care they deserved," he added.
The VA's massive backlog of applications has forced thousands of veterans to go long stretches of time without coverage — a problem that prompted lawmakers to ask the agency's inspector general to investigate last year.
"Today's troubling news highlights VA's ongoing mismanagement and calls into question VA's ability to adequately care for our nation's veterans," Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the veterans affairs committee, told the Examiner.
The Florida Republican said his committee uncovered evidence of similar "data manipulation" last year at a VA center in Atlanta, after which he asked the agency watchdog to investigate the facility.
"I look forward to the OIG's report so we can address this problem head-on," Miller said. "No veteran should ever fall through the cracks when attempting to receive the care they have earned."
According to a document leaked to reporters on Monday, 238,657 veterans with pending applications died before the agency could grant them healthcare benefits. That means 28 percent of the 847,882 veterans awaiting enrollment in the benefits program were dead before the agency got around to verifying their applications.
The report was prepared in April 2015. It suggested the botched handling of healthcare applications went far beyond the high number of veterans who died waiting for enrollment.
The document also said thousands of veterans who had been listed as dead in the agency's records went on to make appointments, undergo surgery and fill prescriptions.
Robert Griffin, the VA's inspector general, resigned earlier this month amid accusations that he had whitewashed reports critical of the agency's management.
A VA spokesperson did not return a request for comment.
Miller has been critical of the VA's Atlanta eligibility center in the past. Last July, he wrote a letter to Griffin demanding an investigation into whether officials there had purged 10,000 veterans' health records from its books while staring down a massive backlog.