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PHOENIX (AP) -- Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson says 18 veterans who were kept off official Veterans Affairs waiting lists in the Phoenix area have died.

But he said he does not know if the deaths were related to having to wait a long time to see a doctor. Gibson said the 18 veterans were among 1,700 in the Phoenix area who a report found were not on official medical center waiting lists.

Gibson also said he is not sure if the 18 veterans are among the 40 veterans a retired doctor claimed may have died while awaiting treatment in the Phoenix area.

Gibson said Thursday in Phoenix that the agency will make changes to improve care for veterans, including using more purchased care especially in rural areas.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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