Obama vows fix to veterans' health care troubles

"I will not stand for it — not as commander in chief but also not as an American"
Associated Press
May 21, 2014

With outrage mounting over veterans' health care, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that allegations of misconduct at VA hospitals will not be tolerated, and he left open the possibility that Secretary Eric Shinseki, a disabled war veteran, could be held to account.

"I will not stand for it — not as commander in chief but also not as an American," Obama said following an Oval Office meeting with the embattled Shinseki.

Congress moved to keep up the pressure on the administration, with the House set for an evening vote on a measure that would give the VA secretary more authority to fire or demote senior hospital executives. The White House said it supported the goal of seeking greater accountability at the VA but had unspecified concerns about the legislation.

The growing furor surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs centers on allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at VA hospitals. The department's inspector general's office says 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide, including a Phoenix hospital facing allegations that 40 people died while waiting for treatment and staff kept a secret list of patients in order to hide delays in care.

The allegations have raised fresh concerns about the administration's management of a department that has been struggling to keep up with the influx of new veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama's comments Wednesday — his first on the matter in more than two weeks — signaled a greater urgency by the White House to keep the matter from spiraling into a deeper political problem in a midterm election year.

"We are going to fix whatever is wrong, and so long as I have the privilege of serving as commander in chief, I'm going to keep on fighting to deliver the care and the benefits and the opportunities that you and your families deserve, now and for decades to come," Obama said.

Yet the president's remarks did little to quell the criticism of both the VA troubles and his own handling of the matter.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war, said Obama's comments were "wholly insufficient in addressing the fundamental, systemic problems plaguing our veterans' health care system." And the American Legion, the nation's largest veterans service organization, said Obama was making an "unfortunate" decision by keeping Shinseki at the helm of the VA.

"Words are nice, and even somewhat comforting, but when will the VA's house be cleansed of those who are soiling it and dishonoring the system?" American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said in a statement.

Several GOP lawmakers also are seeking Shinseki's resignation, as are Georgia Reps. John Barrow and David Scott, who on Wednesday became the first Democrats to call for the secretary to step down. Barrow is facing one of the most challenging re-election fights of any House Democrat.

Shinseki, a retired Army four-star general, did not appear with the president publicly Wednesday. While Obama spoke of the secretary warmly, saying he had put his "heart and soul" into improving care for the nation's veterans, he added that there would be "accountability throughout the system" if the allegations are proven true.

The White House's more immediate concern appears to be quickly getting the results of the VA's internal reviews of the hospital troubles. Shinseki is due to give Obama a preliminary report next week, with a broader review being overseen by White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors scheduled to wrap up in June.

Nabors, who also took part in the Oval Office meeting with Shinseki, headed to Phoenix on Wednesday to meet with staff at the VA hospital that is at the center of the allegations.

The current director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, Sharon Helman, has been placed on leave while the VA's inspector general investigates the claims raised by several former VA employees. Investigators probing the claims say they have so far not linked any patient deaths in Phoenix to delayed care. A report is due in August.

Last year, Helman was awarded a $9,345 bonus in addition to her $169,000 annual salary. Shinseki rescinded the bonus on Wednesday, the VA said. A spokesman said the bonus had been awarded through an administrative error.

On Capitol Hill, House lawmakers were taking up a bill that would give the VA secretary more power to discipline the 450 career employees who serve as hospital directors or executives in the agency's 21 regions.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, sponsored the measure, saying VA officials who have presided over mismanagement or negligence are more likely to receive bonuses or glowing performance reviews than any sort of punishment.

The VA's "widespread and systemic lack of accountability is exacerbating all of its most pressing problems," Miller said.

Meanwhile, two Republican senators introduced legislation to prohibit payment of bonuses to employees at the Veterans Health Administration through next year. Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Deb Fischer of Nebraska said the VA should focus its spending on fixing problems at the agency, "not rewarding employees entrenched in a failing bureaucracy." Burr is the senior Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Fischer is on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Both have called for Shinseki to step down.

The House passed a bill in February that would eliminate performance bonuses for the department's senior executive staff through 2018.

Comments

freespeech1

Yeah we seen what u did with obamacare . Will you just resign already ! Goes to show you a community organizer should not be president.

MiddleRight

He'll figure out how to fix it when the press reports it. That's apparently how he learns everything else.

Maggdi

I seem to remember a Senator pointedly criticizing then President Bush for the deplorable conditions our veterans were dealing with in the Veteran's administration during the 2008 election cycle. And that this Senator said he knew how to fix it!
I know now why HE is disappointed with the world. It's SO hard to find good help! And he never finds out about anything until you and I do!
Doesn't bode well for his ability to fix the ACA'S troubles...
Of course the thought crossed my mind that by the time we all are involve in government health care he'll be on his way out or gone and then who will help us!?!

Pete

"I, uh, promise to, uh, fix this matter, uh, right after I uh, play a round of, uh, golf with some 1% campaign, uh, donors"

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

(Incoming sarcasm) Woah woah woah, you mean that "middle class" and "working class" people don't go to his $10,000/plate fundraising dinners? Those same people who have to have government-issued IDs, too, to pass security clearance? Are you implying, Pete, that our President only goes to the mansions of the super-wealthy (and of those only of the people in his party as he doesn't seem to care about others who aren't Democrats) and doesn't visit the same people he claims to help yet are continuing to flounder?

I find that hard to believe, it makes no sense why he'd do that sort of thing when he keeps telling us that that isn't what he's all about. It's like saying you needed a special pass to see him at his ice cream social in Sandusky. I mean come on, how could that happen?

If we look at his schedule you'll see that he only attended Democratic (not of the people/little-d democracy, that's the capital-D/of the party only) events this Monday, last Wednesday, and the Wednesday/Thursday before that.

Huh...guess I may have been wrong. Thanks for the eye-opener Pete!

The Big Dog's back

You and pete, now that's a match made in right wingnut land.

freespeech1

Your like a bad B movie. You always rear your irrelevant head and nobody cares.. you really need some new material puppy poo

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Please let me know how many poor people who can't even get government IDs (which must be some astronomical yet unmeasurable number according to comments on other topics) attend our President's one-party-only fundraisers. You are welcome to check our President's schedule yourself and see if I am incorrect in any of the things I have said about attending fundraisers four times in three weeks.

Now why would he only represent one party when he is supposed to represent us all? He is MY president, too, you know.

I would really enjoy a President who promotes democracy, not Democratic policy. Does that make sense?

Stop It

Big Dog's claim to fame. "you are a rightwingnut and I called it, and no changes."

Seven year old kids use that lingo.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Hey it looks like we are up to five Democrat events in three weeks he's gone to. This one is at a private residence in Chicago no less. I wonder if it is someone from the "middle class" he's visiting? He sure is angry about all the things going wrong in this country. He just won't stand for them.

10:00 AM
The President receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
Oval Office
Closed Press
10:45 AM
The President meets with travel and tourism industry CEO’s and senior executives
Roosevelt Room
Pool Spray
1:05 PM
The President departs the White House
South Lawn
Open Press
1:20 PM
The President departs Joint Base Andrews
Joint Base Andrews
Travel Pool Coverage
2:30 PM
The President arrives in New York
Griffis International Airport
Open Press
3:25 PM
The President tours the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Cooperstown
Travel Pool Coverage
3:55 PM
The President delivers remarks at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Cooperstown
Pooled Press
4:55 PM
The President departs New York
Griffiss International Airport
Open Press
6:50 PM
The President arrives in Chicago, Illinois
Local Event Time: 5:50 PM
Chicago O’Hare International Airport
Open Press
8:00 PM
The President attends a DSCC reception
Local Event Time: 7:00 PM
Private Residence - Chicago
Print Pool
9:25 PM
The President delivers remarks and answers questions at a DSCC dinner
Local Event Time: 8:25 PM
Private Residence - Chicago
Print Pool

Looks like he is spending as much or more time at this private residence fundraising for a party that doesn't reflect the entirety of the nation he is supposed to serve than doing other things in the day. He sure does work hard for only a small portion of our entire country but for things like an apolitical entity such as baseball? Half hour.

JACKEL

Please, No !

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

10:00 AM
The President meets with Secretary Shinseki and Rob Nabors
Oval Office | Show Details
Closed Press
10:45 AM
The President delivers a statement
Press Briefing Room
Open Press
11:35 AM
The President participates in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony
Oval Office
Closed Press
2:10 PM
The President honors the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks
East Room
Open to pre-credentialed media
4:10 PM
The President delivers remarks on the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument Designation
Department of the Interior
Open to pre-credentialed media

After starting the day again at 10:00 it seems he won't stand for more than an hour or so before standing for longer periods of times at other events. To be fair to him this isn't his fault directly, but rather evidence of what happens in bureaucratic environments. The lessons of the VA were very clearly never considered nor incorporated with those who also didn't read the ACA before passing it.

The solution as detailed in another article? We need more agencies and more government to watch the government we put in place.

Where does it stop? This could be fixed in many other ways than "more government". For instance, a voucher system that lets veterans go to their local hospital or a hospital/doctor of their choice. It empowers the individual and is a market-driven solution than a top-down...this, what we have now.

Princess Leia to Governor Tarkin aboard the Death Star: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

Unfortunately in this case we're talking about human lives firstly and tax dollars secondly. Both of which are valuable resources we need to foster in our states and country.

grumpy

Would you please stop writing so persuasively and eloquently and just make a 2 or 3 sentence rant while throwing in wingnuts, Kooh brothers, and such things? You are making it hard for piddle puppy to respond. The best he will come up with is 'That is a bogus argument.' Which is a shame because you are not arguing. I envy you your writhing ability, and being able to make your points so well... That I agree with them is a bonus for me.

The Big Dog's back

You 2 need to get a room.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

You are welcome to use correct English and write your own comments based on your own experiences. One that is well-cited and in the benefit for the entirety of the population and not just one party. Or you can continue to lean to your left and fart out petty one-liners that do nothing to advance society, philosophy, critical thinking, original thought, or humanity at large.

You are a sovereign human being who by the grace of our civil society is presumed before incident to have dignity and a sense of morals and respect. It is up to you to throw those away or foster them as you please. So comment how you please, but it seems as if you are not reaching out to people to win their hearts and minds for the cause of humanity, little-d democracy, or even convincing people to join the ranks of big-D Democrats.

EDIT: Don't think you are the only one, nor the only one who waves a donkey flag. There are others here who attempt to communicate though sexual references, an utter failure to cite any sources, and/or name-calling which is an equally-failing strategy. I'm not blind to those people and as you can see very rarely interact with them save for when our paths cross. It's just as disappointing when I try to make a point "from the right" (which, really, isn't) then have others give it support by making inappropriate comments such as sexual remarks.

Maggdi

Bravo!

jazzbo

bs

The Big Dog's back

Exactly.

KnuckleDragger

In piddle puppies defense, it's hard for him to type more than one sentence in a sitting since his stroke after the Repubs took control of the House. He'll likely lose the rest of his faculties once the Dems also lose the Senate in the upcoming elections.

There you go again

There is nothing that an Obama supporter can say to defend this "president" in charge of our country. Gee, he talks the talk but......how about walking the walk? Come on people, this man is so full of hot air I fear he might blow away....right back to Kenya.

Maggdi

Is that why it's so quiet here?
Prime time and the only "defender" is the resident pooch?

freespeech1

On a peanut farm in Georgia there is a former president by the name of jimmy carter who is breathing a sigh of relief knowing he isn't the worst president anymore

Maggdi

Some people's worst fears from 2009 have been realized.

The Big Dog's back

Yep, right wingnut land went bonkers when a Black President got elected. Glad you see it too.

freespeech1

Well I knew it wouldn't be long before the race card was thrown, thanks puppy poo you just showed everyone that you are that ignorant. When you have no good argument, race is all you have, and too bad its lame as hell.

wasthere

That just about sums up the intelligence of BigDog. You see it every day on here. He cannot put together a sentence without using the words "right wingnut". When that fails to strike a nerve, he plays the race card.

KnuckleDragger

See what I mean? Coasterfan in a previous post throws out fox news. His sidekick piddle pupply throws out the race card, now all we need is for one of the other resident kooks to throw out the Bush blame and we will have the trifecta.

GoBigLex2001

Anytime he tries to "fix" something its a mulch-trillion dollar taxpayer funded failure

Anytime he assures or promises something, its never fulfilled.

jazzbo

..........and we were told by the Bush Administration that Iraqi oil would pay for the war.

freespeech1

See were changing topic and blaming bush lmao you lefties are so pathetic. When all else fails blame bush lol

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