WASHINGTON May 19 President Barack Obama is to
speak out soon about reports of healthcare delays at the
Veterans Administration in an effort to underscore his
determination to fix any flaws in the system.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Monday
they would "hear from him at some point on this issue soon," and
other officials said he was likely to comment on it before
leaving on a trip to New York state and Chicago on Thursday.
Eric Shinseki, head of the Veterans Administration, has
faced increasing calls for his resignation over allegations that
delays in treatment at veterans hospitals could have led to
otherwise preventable deaths.
Obama has resisted the demands, insisting he has full
confidence in Shinseki's ability to straighten out the problems.
He has assigned a top White House aide, Rob Nabors, to help the
department get to the bottom of the problem.
A top department official, undersecretary of health Dr.
Robert Petzel, resigned on Friday in a move critics said was an
effort at damage control.
Petzel's resignation came a day after he appeared alongside
Shinseki, a retired four-star general, at a congressional
hearing about accusations that VA medical facilities in Phoenix
covered up long wait times for patients, including 40 who died
while awaiting care.
The VA has put three senior officials in Phoenix on
administrative leave after doctors there said they were ordered
to hold veterans' names for months on a secret waiting list
until a spot opened up on an official list that met the agency's
two-week waiting time goals.
Allegations have been made about similar cover-up
schemes at VA medical facilities in at least seven other cities.
The agency runs the largest U.S. healthcare group, overseeing
some 1,700 hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other
Carney credited Shinseki with implementing policies Obama
wants aimed at providing benefits to veterans, and said if
anyone is held accountable for the problems, this will likely
result from an investigation being conducted by an independent
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)