FBI Joins Investigation of Disgraced VA Hospitals

This photo from Saturday, May 17, 2014 shows the Department of Veterans Affairs in Phoenix. The Veterans Affairs Inspector General's office said late Tuesday, May 20, 2014, that 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide — up from 10 just last week — including a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, where 40 veterans allegedly died while waiting for treatment and staff there kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide delays in care. (AP Photo/Matt York)WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has formally asked the FBI to review materials provided by the Veterans Affairs inspector general, a U.S. law enforcement official said Wednesday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation on the record.

The VA watchdog last month issued a scathing report that confirmed allegations of excessive waiting time at VA hospitals and inappropriate scheduling practices.

The report, which followed allegations that 40 patients died while awaiting care at a Phoenix hospital where employees kept a secret waiting list to cover up delays, found that 1,700 veterans seeking treatment at the Phoenix facility were at risk of being "forgotten or lost."

Troubles at the department forced the resignation last month of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Though the Justice Department has not undertaken a full-fledged investigation, the request for FBI involvement represents an escalation into concerns of possible criminal conduct by VA employees.

FBI Director James Comey had previously said that the FBI had not been asked to participate in any investigation. But the law enforcement official said the situation has now changed.

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