In the wake of the Veterans Affairs scandal and outrage over delays in life-saving care, the Obama Administration is allowing more veterans to get care at private hospitals.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are divided over why they believe some VA health clinics allegedly falsified records to cover up treatment delays. The number of U.S. VA facilities being investigated now stands at 26.
Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that the scandal was a result of executives wanting “bonuses and promotions for sure.” More funding, he argued, would not have made a difference.
“What you have is an issue of manipulation and mismanagement. If money was the issue then this would have been solved a long time ago,” Miller insisted.
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, disagreed on the show arguing: “I suspect we are going to need more funding.” Sanders pointed to the influx of veterans coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq in addition to Vietnam and Korean War vets getting older.
Both Miller and Sanders said they still supported VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, despite growing calls that he step down. Miller said the issue was “much larger” than Shinseki.
“You’ve got an entrenched bureaucracy that exists out there that is not held accountable, that is shooting for goals, goals that are not helping the veterans,” Miller said.
President Obama has also stood by Shinseki, but said he needed addition time to review the crisis. “If these allegations prove true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful and I will not tolerate it,” he said last week.
Obama also mentioned the scandal during his weekend address, just ahead of Memorial Day. “In recent weeks, we’ve seen again how much more our nation has to do to make sure all our veterans get the care they deserve,” said Obama, adding: “As commander-in-chief, I believe that taking care of our veterans and their families is a sacred obligation.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC’s Martha Raddatz he believes some of the allegations will prove true.
“It is outrageous, if the allegations actually are documented and proven, and I suspect some of them will be,” he said. “They’ve got to be held accountable. I think…Shinseki has made it very clear that they will be held accountable.” Dempsey suggested the VA secretary would not be exempt from the fallout.
“At some point, you know, the chief executive, the chairman, whoever it is, has to take responsibility for the entire organization and its performance,” Dempsey said.