This post has been updated.
Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) office is is pushing back on accusations that the senator and his staff were slow to respond to information on the VA scandal.
In a story published Tuesday, the Arizona Republic accused McCain and of failing to respond quickly to concerns of Dr. Sam Foote, the whistleblower who first raised concerns about wait times at the Phoenix VA hospital. The newspaper reviewed correspondence between McCain’s office and Foote, and concluded that McCain’s office was “slow to take action.”
According to Foote, he reached out to McCain, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and the U.S. Attorney’s office in February after he had already been in touch with the the agency watchdog, the inspector general’s office.
Only McCain’s office responded, Foote said. He got an email from Tom McCanna, a McCain aide tasked with veterans issues.
“He (McCanna) took the information, but my impression was he wasn’t going to be moving on it anytime soon,” Foote told the Arizona Republic.
The Arizona Republic has a detailed review of the correspondence between Foote and McCain’s office here.
McCain’s office issued a statement in response to the article on Tuesday, disputing the paper’s characterization of his response to the scandal.
“The Arizona Republic’s article today alleging that Senator McCain’s office was ‘slow to take action’ on a VA whistleblower complaint by Dr. Sam Foote is totally inaccurate, particularly given that our office provided to the Republic documentation showing we responded to Dr. Foote’s letter within 48 hours,” communications director Brian Rogers said in the statement. “Senator McCain greatly appreciates the efforts of Dr. Foote and other whistleblowers who have helped bring to light serious problems in veterans’ care across the nation.”
McCain’s office included a timeline of their correspondence with Foote in the statement.
Kirkpatrick’s chief of staff initially told the Republic that the office did not respond to Foote’s email raising concerns about wait times. The lawmaker’s chief of staff forwarded Foote’s note to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, according to the Republic.
“The severity of the allegations was clear,” spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson told the Republic. “So we felt it was appropriate for Representative Kirkpatrick’s committee and subcommittee staff to handle any communications with Dr. Foote or anyone else who contacted us about matters under investigation.”
However, Kirkpatrick’s office later found an archived email in which the office did respond to Foote, the Republic reported Wednesday evening.