Republicans attack Obama over veterans scandal

WASHINGTON Thu May 29, 2014 7:07pm EDT

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) takes a question as he addresses reporters after a Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 7, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) takes a question as he addresses reporters after a Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 7, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans stepped up their attacks on the Obama administration over a deepening Veterans Affairs healthcare delay scandal on Thursday, but House Speaker John Boehner again declined to join a growing list of lawmakers calling for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.

Boehner told reporters he was still not convinced that Shinseki's ouster would solve the VA's problems. Instead, he sought to keep the pressure on President Barack Obama for VA scheduling abuses that covered up monthslong delays for veterans' medical care appointments.

"I'm going to continue to reserve judgment on General Shinseki," Boehner said, adding: "The real issue here is the president is the one who should be held accountable."

On Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs' inspector general confirmed in an interim report that Phoenix VA officials manipulated data to vastly understate appointment waiting times for veterans, and said the problem was "systemic" throughout the VA. It added that the data was used to calculate bonus awards.

The report prompted dozens of lawmakers from both parties to turn against Shinseki and demand his resignation.

Several more prominent Democratic senators joined these calls on Thursday, including Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who face tight re-election races. Also asking Shinseki to step aside were both of Virginia’s Democratic senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE

Shinseki is expected to address the VA probes on Friday in a speech to a conference on homeless veterans, an agency official said.

Shinseki met with leaders of veterans groups to outline his action plan, but the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said this did not restore their confidence in him.

"We still have serious questions about whether the secretary has the tools, resources, and the confidence of VA staff and veterans to create real reform,” said Derek Bennett, the group's chief of staff.

The scandal exploded earlier this month after VA doctors in Phoenix went public with allegations that some 40 veterans had died while waiting months for primary-care appointments.

White House spokesman Jay Carney repeatedly declined to say whether Obama still has confidence in Shinseki but added that the president wanted accountability based on the outcome of investigations and results of an internal VA audit due shortly.

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is pursuing its own investigation into the care delay scandal and new legislation to address it.

These include a measures from Representative Jeff Miller of Florida, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, to freeze VA bonus awards for five years and to order that veterans be allowed to seek private care at the agency's expense if they are forced to wait more than 30 days for an appointment.

Miller, frustrated with what he calls an "inadequate" VA response to his committee's subpoenas for emails and other correspondence related to the Phoenix secret waiting lists, said he is planning to file a federal court petition to try to compel the agency to turn over more documents.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander and Richard Cowan, writing by David Lawder; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Comments (34)
sabrefencer wrote:
Im sure gen Shinseki served with great distinction…or else, he would not have risen to the rank that he did…im sorry, he didn’t retire with honor and keep his greatness intact…but he did not..he chose to serve further, under one of the weakest presidents, in our history…no one wanted Obama to be this either…he just is…so now Shinseki, has to be evaluated on his CURRENT job…the results are abominable…he is at the head… so, his job performance is also abominable…Those and all those around them, that contribute to this horrible result, need to go…Shinseki, should have never allowed himself to be managed into failure…he did..time to be fired, or retire…

May 29, 2014 1:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
moonhill wrote:
Obama is never to blame for anything bad that happens during his tenure as President. No matter what it is, Benghazi, Fast and Furious the IRS scandal, it’s all George Bush’s fault.

May 29, 2014 2:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SunnyDaySam wrote:
so, to sum it up, Boehner and the Republicans have no idea how to fix this problem at the VA, a problem that has been going on at least since 2001 btw, they have no idea who should replace Shinseki and they just want to blame President Obama (as usual) – man, just ONCE I’d like to see the GOPers come up with anything constructive or have a solution to anything. Once!

May 29, 2014 3:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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