A Senate panel is reviewing how VA health care providers handled veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after a VA medical center in Phoenix failed to respond to a veteran’s requests for medical help and was unable to treat his symptoms, according to reports.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Thursday asked VA Secretary Robert McDonald to look into the problems at the Phoenix VA Medical Center after a report from the Washington Post revealed the facility failed to treat a veteran suffering from PTSD.
McCaskall, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Veterans Affairs, said she wants to know what steps the VA has taken to make sure the facility’s doctors are working to prevent PTSD in future.
The Post said a veteran died in September of a PTSD-related illness after attending the Phoenix Veterans Health Care System in Phoenix.
The veteran was identified as William “Bill” Cagle, who was serving in Iraq in 2006 when he contracted the illness.
The VA reported that Cagle had been receiving medical care at the facility for three years.
The department said the hospital had received at least three calls to the emergency room and that Cagles symptoms did not worsen.
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee voted to hold a hearing Wednesday on the VA health system’s response to the Cagle case.
“The VA has a long history of treating veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD in a timely and appropriate manner,” the committee said in a statement.
“In addition, the VA’s mental health and wellness care program, which provides care to all VA patients regardless of the diagnosis or severity of the condition, is working to improve the care and prevention of PTSD symptoms and prevent further deaths from the condition.”
VA Secretary McDonald told The Associated Press in a letter on Thursday that the department has taken steps to address the problem, including requiring that VA staff conduct periodic reviews of how they treat PTSD cases and provide guidance to doctors about how to handle the patient’s request for care.
The letter did not specify which VA facilities were the focus of McCaskil’s inquiry.
McDonald’s office did not immediately respond to an AP request for comment on Thursday.
The Associated Statesman newspaper reported on Wednesday that Cangle was the first veteran to die from PTSD since the agency started collecting data on the condition in 2009.
The paper also reported that a veteran with the same name died at a Phoenix VA medical facility last year after a doctor there failed to diagnose his PTSD.
A report from The Washington Post also detailed a series of VA health failures in Phoenix over the past several years that included failing to properly care for veterans who had been injured on duty or in the line of duty.
The newspaper reported that the VA did not disclose in its most recent financial reports that it was investigating a doctor who resigned in June, citing the ongoing VA investigation into a VA employee’s alleged misuse of taxpayer dollars to pay for personal expenses.
The AP reported that several of the veterans identified by The AP as suffering from the disorder have since died.