May 18, 2014, 11:10 am
Obama ‘madder than hell’ about scandal at VA, aide says
By Timothy Cama
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said in an interview broadcast Sunday that President Obama is angry about problems over waiting time at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities and will not stop focusing on the issue until it is fixed.
“The president is madder than hell, and I’ve got the scars to prove it,” McDonough said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” referring to his conversations with Obama about the VA’s problems. “We’re going to get to the bottom of those things, fix them and ensure that they don’t happen again.”
CBS correspondent Major Garrett shot his interview with McDonough Friday, a day after VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified on Capitol Hill about allegations of mismanagement at multiple VA medical facilities that led to delays and claims that facilities sought to cover up the delays.
McDonough refused to judge Shinseki’s testimony.
“We don’t score testimony on Capitol Hill or otherwise,” he said. “A weak score is results as is relates to services and the benefits that our vets have earned.”
McDonough sought to assure that Obama is committed to solving the VA’s problems, even if the president himself hasn’t spoken publicly about it in weeks.
“We’ve now deployed additional staff to the Veterans Administration to dig into this, to find out if this is a series of isolated cases or whether this is a systemic issue that we need to address with wholesale reform,” he said.
“We’re not going to stop, Major, making this better until it is better,” McDonough said. “Because that’s exactly what our veterans deserve.”
The interview took place before Robert Petzel, the VA’s under secretary for health, resigned.
After airing the McDonough interview, “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer interviewed Dan Dellinger, national commander of the American Legion, who was one of the first public figures to call for Shinseki’s resignation amid the scandal over wait times.
Dellinger said it was not satisfied with Obama’s response thus far.
“We need the White House, the president, to come forward,” Dellinger said. “He needs to make a statement to show the employees of the VA that this needs to change now.”