The Office of Veterans Affairs has become a bogged-down bureaucracy and will continue to operate in an inefficient, corrupt fashion unless real change is initiated by President Barack Obama, says Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
On Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that both Obama and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki only learned about the allegations
about fake waiting lists that hid long, and allegedly deadly, lapses of healthcare for veterans in Arizona when CNN first reported the scandal in April.
But a Washington Times report
on Monday revealed that the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush warned the Obama-Biden transition team about problems within the VA, and internal memos show Veterans Affairs officials specifically warned that the department should not trust the wait times its facilities were reporting.
Miller, a Florida Republican whose committee is investigating the widespread issues within the VA, told J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV that he personally sent a letter to Obama last May at the request of Rep. David Scott, a Democrat, who was not getting information he requested out of the VA.
"I said, 'Mr. President, you have to become personally involved in this,'" Miller explained. "He didn't respond, but he had the secretary respond to me somewhat later and basically talked about 'the things that they thought' were positive with handling by the VA in regards to Legionella disease, with an outbreak that was taking place in Pittsburgh.
"[But] there were whistleblower complaints in Jackson, Miss. In New York there was possible exposure to veteran patients because they were reusing needles and it's like, folks, there's a very large problem that exists out there, and the president chose really to take no action, and now the drumbeat is growing so strong out there against the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"You got a bunch of employees out there that are doing good work every single day, but you've got some really bad actors in the system," he said Tuesday.
According to Miller, the problems within the VA run from top to bottom.
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He said Shinseki and the VA failed to comply with a subpoena ordering them to provide, by Monday, information from 27 individuals in a three-week span, with emails that dealt with the destruction of a 'secret waiting list' from Phoenix. What the committee received was 201 emails from one employee, and Miller said he was told it took 30 people working overtime for nine days to produce that selected information.
"If they're that slow in producing emails that they have been subpoenaed, I can only imagine how slow they are in providing healthcare to the veterans," Miller said.
Miller said his committee subpoenaed just the records and not Shinseki himself after misinformation was uncovered during testimony given by Dr. Thomas Lynch, a senior medical administrator in the Veterans Health Administration, before both chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate.
"During that briefing he said, 'Hey, there was a misunderstanding. This wasn't a secret list. It was actually an interim list, and oh, by the way, this interim list had no historic significance, so it's been destroyed,'" Miller said.
"We asked him, 'When did you destroy it and what was on the list?' He would not respond. He started backpedaling, and so from that briefing we took a 100 percent vote within the committee to issue a subpoena for the folks that we thought would have been in an email exchange in regards to the destruction of the secret list at Phoenix."
The destruction of this list, Miller said, was done despite his order for all records to be preserved.
"I asked the secretary to preserve it, the secretary should have sent a message out immediately saying cease and desist if there is anything going on," Miller said. "Unfortunately they are living in their own world and the president just isn't holding the department accountable either. If the secretary won't do it, it's President Obama's responsibility, and he has really been absent out there in this issue."
Miller said this standard operating procedure is why the VA finds itself in the current mess it is in.
"The money has been going to mid-level management growth of the bureaucracy and not into the actual providers," he said. "If money were the solution to this, this would have been solved a long time ago.
"[The VA] is a bureaucracy that knows very well that it's going to outlast the secretary, it will outlast any president and their administration, that if they can just get past whatever date is in front of them, they can in fact start the process all over again and start blowing smoke."
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