White House hints Obama to address Veterans Affairs scandal
By Justin Sink - 05/19/14 03:01 PM EDT
President Obama will publicly address allegations the Department of Veterans Affairs used falsified data to hide delays in care for veterans soon, the White House said Monday.
The president has not publicly discussed the situation since late last month, when he was asked a question about a report that 40 military veterans died while waiting for care at a facility in Phoenix. At the time, Obama said the administration was taking “the allegations very seriously” and that he had ordered an investigation into the matter.
“I'm sure you'll hear from him at some point on this issue soon,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Monday.
The hint that the president may appear publicly to address the controversy appeared a tacit recognition the story was not going away.
Since Obama called for an investigation, the American Legion called on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, and other veterans hospitals around the country have been accused of similar practices, deepening concerns that veterans have been improperly denied care.
Last week, the White House did issue a statement from Obama announcing he had dispatched his deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors, to oversee a review of VA procedures and policies.
“While we get to the bottom of what happened in Phoenix, it’s clear the VA needs to do more to ensure quality care for our veterans,” Obama said.
Republicans have stepped up their attacks on Obama over the issue, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) delivering this past weekend’s GOP address on the issue.
Carney insisted Obama had been responsive to concerns raised over the VA.
“He has strongly supported the action taken by Secretary Shinseki. He has sent over one of his most trusted advisers from the White House, Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors, to assist in that review. And he expects results from the review and he hopes for results from the independent investigation,” Carney said.
On Sunday, Obama's chief of staff said he was “madder than hell” about the reports regarding secret wait lists.
“The president is madder than hell, and I’ve got the scars to prove it, given the briefings that I’ve given the president,” Denis McDonough told CBS News.
McDonough said Obama had “deployed additional staff over 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.”
Still, the White House stopped short on Monday of endorsing a bill in the House that would make it easier to fire or demote senior officials at the VA.
“We'll look closely at the bill,” Carney said. “We certainly share the goals that the bill represents, ensuring accountability at the VA.”
The press secretary said the White House hoped to work with lawmakers “to address some of the concerns we have with the details of the bill,” without detailing what those concerns were.