Obama says he's determined to get to bottom of Veterans Affairs mess
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 01:23
May 21- President Barack Obama made his first public comments in several weeks over the allegations of misconduct at the Veteran's Administration, saying that those found guilty of wrongdoing will be ''punished''. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION)
President Barack Obama on Wednesday (May 21) made his first public comments in roughly three weeks over allegations of gross misconduct at veterans hospitals across the country.
He expressed his anger about delays in care for wounded U.S. veterans, saying he will begin next week to get answers from investigations into what went wrong and who to hold accountable.
"When I hear allegations of misconduct, any misconduct, whether it's allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books, I will not stand for it, not as commander in chief, but also not as an American," Obama said after meeting with embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
The president was addressing allegations that doctors at a veterans medical facility in Phoenix were ordered to put veterans' names on a secret waiting list for months, until a spot opened up on an official list, in a bid to make the waiting times appear shorter.
Obama said his top aide Rob Nabors will travel to Phoenix later on Wednesday to visit the facility at the center of allegations and meet with veterans and their representatives.
Obama's comments come as his administration struggles to contain a political storm over the delivery of health care to the nation's former soldiers.
Similar allegations have been made other veterans' medical facilities, and CNN reported on Tuesday that 26 were under investigation.
Obama said Secretary Shinseki is committed to helping fix the problems at VA hospitals "at this stage" but left open the option that Shinseki might eventually step down over the issues.
Some veterans' groups and other critics are pressing for Shinseki to step down, but Obama has stood firmly behind him.
The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is preparing to start debate on a proposed bill that would make it easier for the department to fire or demote senior executives. A vote is expected this week.
The Veteran Affairs department oversees some 1,700 hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other facilities, making it the nation's largest healthcare organization.
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