White House insists progress made on VA patient backlog
By Justin Sink - 05/12/14 03:05 PM EDT
The White House voiced confidence on Monday that the administration has made “significant progress” toward reducing the backlog at the Veterans Affairs Department.
Despite indications that officials at hospitals across the country tried to alter reporting statistics, the White House said it had made gains.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said administration officials had “aggressively addressed" the underlying issues and reduced the number of days veterans had to wait before their disability claims were considered.
“Since the beginning of fiscal year 2014, 759,724 claims have been completed, which is 162,831 more than the number of claims completed this time last year, which shows an enhanced focus and dedication to providing our veterans with the service and care that they deserve,” Carney said.
Carney sidestepped questions about whether the administration was considering a “strike force” like they deployed following the botched rollout of the ObamaCare website to examine problems at the agency.
“I don't have any personnel announcements to make on the VA, except to say that the president takes the situation, as he has said, around the Phoenix office very seriously,” Carney said.
Officials at hospitals in Arizona and Wyoming, among others, allegedly created a secret list intended to hide how long patients were waiting to receive care. According to one document obtained by CNN, employees were told to “game the system” because it made their clinic look better to Washington.
As a result, dozens of veterans apparently went without life-saving medical care. Those reports have fueled outrage from veterans advocates and led to calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
The allegations also raised new questions about the veracity of the White House's repeated assertions that it had made substantial progress toward reducing the agency's disability claims backlog.
Carney reiterated that Shinseki retained the full confidence of the president.
“He's confident in Secretary Shinseki's ability to lead the department and to take appropriate action based on the IG's findings,” Carney said.