The Veterans Affairs office of inspector general announced Wednesday that it has begun investigating alleged misconduct at a Hibbing VA outpatient clinic.

Numerous former clinic workers have claimed they were ordered to manipulate the schedules for veterans' appointments to make it appear they were being seen within their desired appointment date when they were actually being seen as much as six to eight weeks out.

The allegations included the assertion that employees were ordered to backdate medical appointment dates, a practice known as schedule "scrubbing."

The former employees maintain that the backdating orders stopped only in late April, when investigators found that the VA medical system, which serves almost 9 million veterans nationwide every year, was maintaining secret waiting lists and delivering insufficient care.

A May report from the VA's inspector general described improper scheduling as "systemic," and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was forced to resign amid the controversy.

The Hibbing clinic is run by Cincinnati-based Sterling Medical, which manages at least four other VA community-based outpatient clinics in Minnesota, including Mankato, St. James and Ely.

In November, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and Rick Nolan called for an investigation after allegations of misconduct at the clinic surfaced in reporting in the Star Tribune.

Nolan, who represents the Hibbing area in Congress, met with a group of the ex-workers in November.

Afterward, Nolan called the accusations "very troubling" and said he would speak with VA Secretary Bob McDonald about his concerns.

The Minneapolis VA has said it welcomes the probe. Sterling has said the clinic never ordered its employees to backdate appointments.

The inspector general is an independent investigative arm of the VA. A spokeswoman said the announcement that it was initiating an investigation was a routine courtesy to the state's congressional delegation.

She could not give an indication when the inquiry might conclude.