Sen. John McCain Saturday upbraided the Obama administration for its lack of leadership amid a growing scandal of mismanagement, fraud, and neglect at a number of VA medical centers.
In the weekly Republican address, the Arizona Republican, a former prisoner of war, said the upcoming Memorial Day holiday should remind Americans "decent care for our veterans is among the most solemn obligations a nation incurs."
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"How we care for those who risked everything for us is the most important test of a nation's character," McCain said. "Today, we are failing that test. ... it's time we live up to Abraham Lincoln's injunction, which serves as the VA's motto today, 'to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.'"
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Pointing out it's been a month since allegations surfaced in Arizona that 40 vets died waiting for care at a Phoenix VA facility, McCain said the administration has yet to take action.
"To date, the Obama administration has failed to respond in an effective manner," McCain charged. "This has created in our veterans’ community a crisis of confidence toward the VA – the very agency that was established to care for them."
McCain decried that "hundreds, if not thousands" of vets have suffered "or even passed away" because of the "egregious mismanagement and scheduling delays at the VA."
So far, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has ordered a national audit, some VA workers have been put on administrative leave, and the VA Office of Inspector General is investigating the Phoenix VA center, McCain noted.
"But my fellow veterans can't wait the many months it may take to issue its report," McCain said. "They need answers, accountability and leadership from this administration and Congress now."
McCain said the VA needs a "total refocusing ... on its core mission of serving veterans," and urged Congress to give VA administrators "greater ability to hire and fire" workers caring for vets, as well as giving veterans "greater flexibility in how they get quality care in a timely manner."
"Veterans have earned the right to choose where and when they get their medical care," he added. "And it is our responsibility to ensure that they are afforded this option."
"Our veterans gave us their best," McCain said, though "too often they've gotten the worst from those charged with their care."
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