Obama assigns deputy chief of staff to Veterans Affairs review

WASHINGTON Wed May 14, 2014 10:59pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about transportation infrastructure during a visit to the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, New York May 14, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about transportation infrastructure during a visit to the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, New York May 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is dispatching his deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors, to help oversee a review of the Department of Veterans Affairs as anger grows over evidence that veterans died while waiting for care.

Obama, through his spokesman, has voiced his confidence in Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki repeatedly, but the retired four star general has faced calls for his resignation following reports that up to 40 veterans died while waiting for appointments or specialist care at a VA hospital in Phoenix.

"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 Wednesday in a statement. "I'm grateful that Rob, one of my most trusted advisers, has agreed to work with Secretary Shinseki to help the team at this important moment."

The move demonstrated White House concern that the issue is taking on growing political weight. Shinseki is scheduled to testify about the problems before a Senate committee on Thursday.

Nabors, a former director of White House legislative affairs and former deputy budget director, will be re-assigned to Veterans Affairs on a temporary basis. Shinseki, who is spearheading the review, said in a statement released by the White House that he appreciated Nabors's help.

"I welcome Rob's perspective in helping us to ensure veterans have access to timely quality health care," he said. "If allegations about manipulation of appointment scheduling are true, they are completely unacceptable - to veterans, to me, and to our dedicated VA employees."

As more reports surface of alleged schemes to mask long wait times at VA hospitals and clinics, Shinseki's testimony will be critical to saving his job. White House support for the former general could dip if he fails to show credibly in his testimony to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that he was not aware of any cover-ups of appointment wait times.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Ken Wills)

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Comments (3)
Art16 wrote:
This topic will certainly will get a lot of traction. So, Junior High Obama is now sending in a person to help the embattled VA. Interesting. The problem I have with that is the issue of credibility with this administration. However, that being said, below is a matter I shared with Sen. McCain via his website hoping it would be added into the mix of what I am sure are many reports of VA practices that do not benefit anyone but the VA.

“In the Boston VA there are a few tricks in play, such as not allowing anyone to have appointments with their pcp greater than 3 months after your visit. If your PCP checks off 4 months, they send you a letter, maybe, after 3 months have elapsed to ask you to call for the appointment, which, of course, is now delayed usually 2 or more months because of tight scheduling. The people just say that the computer does not allow them to make appointments the way they used to. Sure, blame it on the computer! Also, they created a “Nurse Clinic” which effectively takes you out of contact with your PCP. I just recently felt I was being avoided to have a XXXXXX procedure rescheduled. It took a nasty note from my pcp to get them off the stick, and when XXXXXX called with the rescheduled procedure, they sounded extraordinarily nasty. I have seen this kind of thing in play for about two years, and do not have a good feeling about it.”

I certainly do not have a good feeling about any of it! I am sure there is worse, a lot worse, that will surface, across the country.

Of course, I am a Vietnam Veteran, and proud of it.

May 15, 2014 7:47am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Art16 wrote:
Just as a side note to my comment previously made, the Boston VA Mental Health at the Boston OPC on Causeway St. Boston, MA, has been squeezed for resources to the point where the availability of Staff to work with you on your problems, like PTSD, is short changing the Veterans who need such “one on one” contact more frequently than they were able to receive, say, 2-3 years ago. They just can no longer hire the people they need to do an effective job. With the Afghan and Iraq Veterans with issues like traumatic brain injury, things are likely to get worse. I have used this facility for years and I am very disappointed with the slow and steady erosion of services by mental health professionals.

May 15, 2014 8:28am EDT  --  Report as abuse
fedupaj wrote:
Another internal Obama investigation that will lead to total silence and not a “smidgen” of wrong doing by anyone but the janitor. In other words another cover-up by President Liar.

May 15, 2014 8:47am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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