Senator Jon Tester told VA Secretary Eric Shinseki Thursday that "heads should roll" if recent allegations of inadequate care at VA facilities are true, but that facts must guide the government’s response. Tester said that strong action is needed to make sure all veterans can access the care they earned, but that only a continued focus on veterans’ care will lead to improved results.

"Let’s talk about ways we can address VA medical workforce shortfalls, particularly in rural areas," Tester said. "Let’s talk about ways we can improve transportation options for veterans or expanding telemedicine initiatives. Let’s talk about building more partnerships between the VA and local providers, and providing the VA with more of the resources it needs to address its patient workloads."

Thursday’s hearing was called to look into recent allegations that a number of veterans died while waiting for appointments at the Phoenix VA, many of whom were placed on a "secret waiting list." It also examined how the department is delivering care, its budgetary needs and its recruitment and retention of employees.

"Let’s have these conversations so that we can provide veterans with meaningful action items, not just political talking points," Tester said. "Veterans deserve our best. They have sacrificed much."

The VA’s Health Administration is the nation’s largest integrated medical system, operating more than 1,700 points of care and employing more than 300,000 people. In 2013, it handled nearly 90 million outpatient visits. A recent independent study found that nine out of 10 veterans were satisfied with the care they received at the VA.