Veterans' Activist Duff: VA Has Nationwide 'Culture of Corruption'

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 04:54 PM

By Joe Battaglia

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President Barack Obama and Secretary for Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki have "selective memory" in terms of when they first learned about gaps of care for ailing veterans and "they're mad as hell that they've been exposed," charges one retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant.

On Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that both Obama and Shinseki only learned about the allegations of bogus waiting lists that hid long, and allegedly deadly, lapses of healthcare for veterans in Arizona when CNN first reported the scandal in April.

But the Washington Times reported on Monday 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.

Jessie Jane Duff, a member of the Organizing Committee of Concerned Veterans for America, told J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman on "America's Forum" on NewsmaxTV that Shinseki and Dr. Robert Petzel spoke, before the latter's resignation, of prior knowledge of gaming of the system and said that her organization has been focused on the VA for over a year. She called the situation "a disgusting debacle."

"It's appalling. It's ridiculous," she said. "It's just beyond words because I sit back and I see now that it's a culture of corruption that has festered within the VA throughout the nation."

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Duff was incredulous in saying she could not comprehend how neither President Obama nor Vice-President Joe Biden could remember being notified of issues within the VA before arriving in the White House.

"Obviously, somebody wasn't keeping notes or had selective memory like I said because they are aware of this," Duff said. "I mean, every veteran knows that the care is inadequate. Everybody knows that. It only got worse in 2009 when Secretary Shinseki took the position that he has, and I'll explain why. To his credit, he opened up the doors for [treatment for] Agent Orange and PTSD and Desert Storm Syndrome, but when you do that, you end up having a mass flood of Veterans that come out and say, look I've got Agent Orange issues such as cancer, diabetes, they've got various forms of problems and now they’re flooding the VA medical facilities.

"So instead of teaching these executives, 'Tell us what you need,' they tell them that if you want to get a bonus, you want to keep your numbers low, get an appointment within 14 days. That's why they've been gaming the system with these appointments. They're pretending that the Vets have only been waiting for 14 days when in reality they've been waiting as long as four months and even longer in some cases."

Duff said she believes the issues within the VA are a direct result of the Obama administration and Shinseki ignoring the advice they were given on their way into office and underestimating the backlog that would result from expanded coverage.

"When you're talking about Veterans, some people don't react until the house is burning down," Duff said. "Now we've got Veterans that are dying. We've got evidence of this ... No one wanted to pay attention to the warning signs."

Duff added that when she listens back to President Obama's "pledge to fulfill our responsibilities to our Veterans because our commitment to our veterans is a sacred trust and upholding that trust is a moral obligation," against the backdrop of this scandal, she believes that "a lack of integrity" has surfaced from within the administration.

"Say what you mean and mean what you say. That's what a leader does," she said. "Don't tell me you care about me and you turn around and forget I even exist.

"I applaud the president for recognizing veterans when it's appropriate, but don't support Shinseki who obviously either is blatantly naive, oblivious, and incapable of knowing what's going on within his own management team. As a Marine, one of our leadership principles is, 'Know your men and know your mission.' That means that all of these executives throughout the entire VA are aware of this gaming the system."

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