The FBI has launched a criminal investigation into the Department of Veteran Affairs, following the release of a damning report last month that charged VA hospitals with excessive—and sometimes life-imperiling—delays. That report ultimately led to the resignation of VA secretary Eric Shinseki.
FBI Director James Comey announced on Wednesday that the investigation would be led by the bureau's office in Phoenix, Arizona, which he described as the "primary locus of original allegations" because at least 35 veterans died while awaiting treatment in the city's VA hospital.
The Associated Press reports Comey and the Inspector General have their work cut out for them:
The VA, which serves almost 9 million veterans, has been reeling from mounting evidence that workers falsified reports on wait times for medical appointments in an effort to mask frequent, long delays. An internal audit released this week showed that more than 57,000 new applicants for care have had to wait at least three months for initial appointments and an additional 64,000 newly enrolled vets who requested appointments never got them.
While Comey did not provide the details of the investigation, he did reveal to the Judiciary House Committee that the FBI will be teaming up with the Veteran Affairs Inspector General.
The investigation comes as Senate prepares to vote on a legislation that will allow veterans who have experienced delays to receive VA-paid treatment from local doctors.