Democratic Rep. Becerra: Obama Will Be 'Very Aggressive' on VA

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 07:17 PM

By Jason Devaney

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President Barack Obama will respond to the ongoing scandal involving the Department of Veterans Affairs with "very aggressive action," a report says.

The Hill quotes Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, who along with other House Democrats met with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough about the situation.

"I think you're going to find very aggressive action within the administration," said Becerra, head of the House Democratic Caucus. "Denis McDonough made it very clear: the president is gonna be on this."

Republicans and Democrats have been calling for Obama to address the VA hospital scandal, which is spreading from state to state as more whistleblowers come forward with stories of alleged mistreatment of veterans waiting for care.

The story first made headlines when news broke that 40 veterans' deaths were linked to a secret waiting list at the VA hospital in Phoenix. Officials there allegedly kept two waiting lists: a fake one used for reporting and the real one, which showed that soldiers had to wait months to see doctors.

Similar cases have popped up around the country.

At the St. Louis VA hospital, a doctor said staff psychiatrists worked only a few hours a day and did not see as many patients as they could have. The doctor said he has been bullied and was demoted after telling his story.

Another report linked 167 veterans' deaths to delays in treatment, for which a total of $36.4 million was paid to settle claims.

McDonough said that Obama is "madder than hell" over the continuing scandal, and that the president is demanding that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and others in the administration "continue to fix these things until they're functioning the way that our veterans believe they should."

On Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama first heard about the fake waiting lists through the media.

According to a Washington Times report, Obama was informed of problems with wait times at the Phoenix VA hospital — and was told to be wary of the official reporting — during the transition period between his 2008 election win and when he took office a few months later in 2009.

Carney responded to that report Monday, saying that "then-candidate Obama [in 2008] identified problems with the VA and committed himself, if being elected, to making sure we enhance the budgets we provide to the Veterans Affairs Department so we can better serve our veterans."

"We asked for and received from Congress significant increases in the VA budget," Carney said. "You have more veterans being served."

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