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Congressional committee members to address problems at Augusta VA medical center

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The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs will visit the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta next month to address problems with delayed care for veterans.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) will lead the congressional oversight visit on Jan. 6.

Officials at the medical center said in November that three veterans have died due to delayed care. U.S. Rep. John Barrow (R-Ga.) then requested a formal hearing into the problems.

"There's no question that someone dropped the ball at the Charlie Norwood VA when it came to providing the best care for our nation's veterans," Barrow said. "We need to get to the bottom of what went wrong so we can prevent it in the future – we owe that to our service men and women."

Miller will also lead a congressional oversight visit to the VA medical center in Columbia, S.C. Officials with the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs say a total of nine veterans died as a result of delayed care at the Columbia and Augusta facilities.

The oversight visits are expected to include an executive briefing from VA officials at each facility regarding the steps department leaders have taken to address problems with delays in care and hold accountable VA employees and executives who may be responsible for allowing patients to slip through the cracks.

The issue of delays in care in Columbia and Augusta first surfaced as part of a March 14 HVAC hearing, according to a press release. Further investigation by the committee identified more than 4,500 unresolved gastroenterology (GI) consults at the Augusta VA medical center, as well as a backlog of nearly 3,000 GI consults at the Columbia facility.

Officials with the House Committee on Veterans Affairs say the Columbia and Augusta deaths are part of a pattern of at least 21 recent preventable veteran deaths and a host of lapses in care at VA medical facilities across the country.

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