President Barack Obama is delivering a statement on the burgeoning scandal in his Department of Veterans Affairs.
“When I hear allegations of misconduct — any misconduct — I will not stand for it,” Obama said.
“If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful and I will not tolerate it — period.”
Obama’s statement came after a hastily scheduled meeting with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.
The Obama administration is under fire for the growing VA scandal, since reports surfaced nearly a month ago detailing patients dying while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA facility. Calls have mounted for Shinseki to resign or be fired. In his statement, Obama defended Shinseki, but he promised “accountability” if the allegations engulfing the agency were true.
“Once we know the facts, I assure you, if there is misconduct, it will be punished,” Obama said.
Obama met Wednesday morning with Shinseki and Rob Nabors, the White House deputy chief of staff who Obama dispatched to conduct an internal review of the agency’s problems. The VA Inspector General’s Office also launched an investigation.
Obama said he understood the calls for swift action, but he urged the public to “let investigators do their job.” Obama said the preliminary results of those reviews are expected next week. More complete reports are due next month.
Since the reports about the Phoenix VA scandal, other reports from local VA facilities have detailed long wait times and delayed services. The Daily Beast last weekend shed light on the Albuquerque, N.M., VA facility that maintained a secret waiting list for veterans to hide delays piling up. CNN reported last month that at least 40 veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system.
“What we have to find out is exactly what happened, and how we can realistically cut some of these wait times,” Obama said.
Obama’s remarks did not satisfy some of his staunchest critics on the scandal. Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said they were too little, too late.
“While I am glad that after many weeks of refusing to acknowledge this widening scandal, President Obama finally saw fit to speak about it today, but his remarks are wholly insufficient in addressing the fundamental, systemic problems plaguing our veterans’ health care system,” McCain said in a statement.
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