Thune: VA Needs 'Top-to-Bottom' Review

Sunday, 25 May 2014 03:56 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's announcement that some veterans will be able to use private healthcare is a "welcome change," South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune says, but a complete review of the VA is needed.

"We need a top-to-bottom review by the inspector general, systemwide, that points out and gives us an idea about how to proceed," Thune told NBC's Major Garrett on "Face the Nation" Sunday. The president just waited way too long to get into this. When you have reports of up to 40 people who died on waiting lists, you had these reports of secret lists...it took three weeks for the president to act."

Part of the solution is "more accountability and more transparency" about wait lists and outcomes, said Thune.

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"We also have to come up with a better model of delivering care to our veterans so they don't have these waits," he told Garrett. "This is a real tragedy. These are people with whom we have a sacred trust that has been betrayed, and we need to make sure that it's fixed.

Meanwhile, the failure is not because of a lack of funding for the VA, Thune insisted.

"We've got a basic failure of the institutions," he said. "Funding has been increased by 60 percent over last five years to the VA."

Thune noted that the situation is causing stress among the different veterans services organizations over the issue and whether Shinseki should be forced to step down.

On Saturday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars had sharp words for North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who suggested in a letter that groups other than the American Legion cared more about access to Shinseki than about veterans, reports Roll Call.

"I fear that change within the VA will not be possible unless and until these organizations also reconsider their role as well as the nature of their relationship with VA," Burr said, not specifically mentioning the VFW.

The veterans' group called Burr's comments a "monumental cheap shot" and said his letter was "one of the most dishonorable and grossly inappropriate acts that we’ve witnessed in more than 40 years of involvement with the veteran community and breaches the standards of the U.S. Senate."

Thune on Sunday said the VFW's response, shows there are "basic disagreements" on how to handle the VA dilemma, but that the issue should "transcend politics."

"We're talking about the men and women who put their lives on the line who risk everything for us and we need to have a system of health care that gives them the highest possible quality care in a timely way and do it in the most cost effective way,"said Thune. "That ought to be what we're focused on."

And he only way to do that, said Thune, is to have a full blown investigation.

He said he's spoken to the director of the FBI, but "looming right away are more than a million Americans who are going to be leaving military, becoming veterans, and placing unforeseen demands on this system ... I'm impatient. So are veterans."


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