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Report Finds No Proof That Delays In Care Caused Veterans' Deaths

The Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs said in a new report today that there was no proof that delays in care at the VA facility in Phoenix led to the death of as many as 40 veterans. But the report did find other systemwide problems that the department said it will fix.

NPR's Quil Lawrence, who is reporting on the story for our Newscast unit, says: "The biggest headline from this veterans report from the Department of Veterans Affairs was that they could not come up with evidence to conclusively prove that veterans had died because they were waiting for care at the Phoenix VA.

"The original scandal alleged that 40 veterans had died while waiting for care in Phoenix," he says. "Now while this report couldn't find evidence of that, it is a pretty damning report. It said that there were terrible delays for thousands of veterans in the Phoenix VA system, and it said it could not capture the personal disappointment, the frustration, loss of faith from individual veterans in the VA system because of these delays."

As we've reported previously, the VA "has been engulfed in controversy over allegations that the agency falsified documents and allowed sick veterans to languish in its bureaucracy."

Eric Shinseki, who headed the agency, resigned over the scandal earlier this year.

Responding to the report, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said the department would implement the two dozen recommendations in Tuesday's report.

"We sincerely apologize to all veterans and we will continue to listen to veterans, their families, veterans service organizations and our VA employees to improve access to the care and benefits veterans earned and deserve," he said in a memo attached to the report that was also signed by Carolyn Clancy, the interim undersecretary for health at the department.

Speaking to a gathering of veterans in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, President Obama reiterated his administration's commitment to veterans.

"As today's generation of service members keeps us safe, and as they come home, we also have to meet our responsibilities to them," he said.

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.