Rep. Kevin McCarthy questioned why veterans had to die waiting for healthcare from the Department of Veterans Affairs before it got the attention of President Barack Obama.
"Why did we have to wait for the headlines?" the California Republican asked on Fox News' "America's Newsroom" on Monday. "Why did people have to die? And why did veterans have to be put through this for this to take place?"
In April, reports surfaced that as many as 40 veterans died because of delays in healthcare from a Phoenix VA facility. Since then, similar problems have been reported at VA facilities throughout the country.
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McCarthy maintained the White House "knew the facts" about the backlogs for veterans seeking healthcare. He said officials "had the studies beforehand" about problems in the VA system. He said he and Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, who chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, had contacted the administration about the problem over a year ago.
"These are problems we have known about, and the House has been working on and passing bills for, that the administration has ignored for too long," he said.
A bill to allow veterans to "get the care in their own local community" would be before the House on Tuesday, McCarthy said, adding that the measure would help "break up that backlog."
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