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Temple VA Employee, Lawmakers Want More Answers After Leadership Speaks Out

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(KCEN) -- The Temple VA continues to struggle against accusations of scheduling misconduct more than a month after allegations first surfaced.

Thursday the facility’s leadership held an off-camera news conference, and Friday, lawmakers and an employee with the VA gave us their thoughts.

The Temple VA has been reluctant to speak out about the internal emails KCEN has been getting from that employee.

Through repeated calls and emails over the last month, they've given us one written statement and then answered questions off-camera Thursday.

Our VA source called the director's answers a "scripted response." He wonders, "Why do the executives get to fly loose and fast with the rules?"

Those rules are about scheduling appointments.

Friday before the Belton 4th of July parade, Congressman John Carter and Sen. John Cornyn spoke with us about some of these accusations.

"Until you know what's going on in a problem,” Carter said, “it's difficult to solve a problem. And this problem's got to be solved."

Emails our source gave us show doctors asked employees to cancel veteran disability appointments and put active soldier exams in their place.

Employees are told, "do not tell them you are canceling for another patient."

Doctors said Thursday in the news conference active soldier disability exams are more important than similar exams for vets to keep the fighting force strong.

“Is it a few bad apples, or is it the whole team was playing more for bonuses than for care for veterans?” Carter asked.

Employees say canceling appointments to schedule other patients goes against training they got, following a report by the VA’s inspector general’s office that identified scheduling problems back in 2011.

In fact, one employee tells the doctor that in an email last August. Another email from October shows it still happening.

"They said it was fixed,” Carter said. “It wasn't."

Now Carter and Cornyn want answers and solutions.

"I fear that it's a structural problem at the VA, a lack of accountability, a bureaucracy that doesn't respond to the needs of our vets,” said Cornyn.
The VA director, Sallie Houser-Hanfelder, said Thursday, “The worst thing you can call me is a bureaucrat. I'm a health care professional. My whole life is dedicated to health care."

Our VA source's response: "What type of so-called health care professional decides to lie to veterans about why they were canceled out."

That employee says the whole reason he's coming forward after a decade working at the VA is because he's a veteran himself, and ten years ago, that same medical center in Temple saved his life.

He wants to make sure it keeps helping our nation's heroes.

Earlier this week, Carter's office said the FBI agreed to investigate the situation.

It’s unlikely we’ll get much information from that agency during the investigation. Representatives at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., and in the San Antonio field office were not able to confirm they had even opened an investigation.

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