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Grijalva launches probe into VA staffing crisis

Posted at 5:27 PM, Feb 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 07:13:23-05

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Congressman Raul Grijalva has launched his own probe into the VA staffing crisis -- based on a KGUN 9 On Your Side investigation.

He wants to dig deeper into the issues exposed by VA staff who told KGUN 9 of efforts to cover up severe staffing shortages because of a high turnover rate of doctors.

RELATED: KGUN 9 VA Investigation Update: Veteran calls his doctor visit 'a waste of time'

Grijalva says he met with a rank-and-file group Tuesday afternoon.

KGUN 9 asked Grijalva if he has received serious complaints?

Grijalva said, "We've gotten individual members, veterans -- we have a veterans caseload -- but in terms of the kind of complaints you've uncovered. And the kind of issues you've raised through your reporting and investigation. No. We haven't gotten a doctor or anybody a whistleblower status directly to our office and tell us."

Grijalva now wants to hear not only from current staff, but former workers as well.

"To be brought in and be part of the assessment. Just because they're gone doesn't mean their information is not valid and maybe they left because nothing was being done," he said.

RELATED: Grijalva calls for investigation into Southern Arizona VA

Grijalva had lauded the Tucson VA after a glowing Veterans Affairs audit following the Phoenix VA scandal in 2014.

"The fact that Tucson did that well. I was proud of it. And the veterans organization were very proud and I still believe Tucson can and should be a premiere hospital and based on that report it was. Based on what you've uncovered. It isn't. That's what we have to find out," he said.

And that's the hard part because I've heard from several employees, who've wanted to shed light on the crisis, but fear retaliation.

RELATED: KGUN 9 VA Crisis probe prompts Senator McCain to call for a federal investigation

KGUN 9 asked Grijalva, "Can you do anything? Can any lawmaker do anything to protect them?"

Grijalva replied, "through the whistleblower protection. And we would not put an employee or someone who comes forward to give us information that is important to jeopardize that employee A. Their confidentiality. Their name. We would not do that."

KGUN 9 has heard from veterans who have received great care at Tucson's VA. So has Congressman Grijalva.

But these whistle blowers are reporting severe staffing shortages in various areas of the VA, including Primary Care.