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WASHINGTON – Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is asking the U.S. Senate to investigate the Department of Veterans Affairs' treatment of military veterans seeking health care.

The Veterans Health Administration has long been criticized for backlogs and long wait times. Those criticisms intensified recently with reports that VA officials falsified data to cover up problems, in some cases because they wanted to qualify for year-end performance bonuses.

According to some reports, at least 40 veterans in the Phoenix area died while waiting for health care from the VA.

"If true, these despicable acts are at the very least improper expenditures of government funds, and at worst may have contributed to the deterioration in health or even death of some of our brave veterans," according to a letter Scott wrote to Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and John McCain of Arizona asking them to conduct a probe.

Levin, a Democrat, chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on investigations and McCain is the subcommittee's ranking Republican.

According to Scott's office, senators who signed the letter include McCain, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota, Mike Lee of Utah, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Jim Risch of Idaho, and Orrin Hatch of Utah. All are Republicans.

The letter was scheduled to be delivered Thursday but was provided to The Greenville News on Wednesday evening.

"Given even the slightest hint of a possible organized effort to fabricate information critical to the care of our nation's veterans, an immediate investigation should be conducted to determine if the health care of our veterans is being put at risk," the letter states.

On Friday, VA acting inspector general Richard Griffin told the Senate his office was already investigating services at 10 VA facilities. On Tuesday, the office said that number had increased to 26.

President Barack Obama ordered a broad review of the VA system on Wednesday, after meeting with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

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