Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders defended himself on Wednesday against allegations from a veterans group executive that he’s "an apologist" for the embattled government agency.
Paul Rieckhoff, head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, hit out at Sanders on MSNBC’s "The Rachel Maddow Show," while also attacking the committee itself, the ranking GOP member Richard Burr, and President Barack Obama, Raw Story reported
"This goes bigger than the president," Rieckhoff said. "You’ve got a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee with no veterans on it. You’re going to have Sen. Bernie Sanders on later. He’s basically been an apologist for the VA over the last few weeks.
"And then you’ve got the ranking leader, Sen. Burr, who thinks it’s a good idea to attack veterans groups. So I think what you continue to see is that everyone has failed us here."
Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, came on the show a few minutes later and fired back at Rieckhoff.
"Needless to say, I don’t quite agree," Sanders said. "A few months ago, I brought forth what was widely believed to be the most comprehensive veterans’ legislation to improve the lives of the veterans of this country in terms of healthcare, employment, education, advanced appropriations, and many other areas."
"It had the support of every veterans organization, including Mr. Rieckhoff’s organization. Unfortunately, we were only able to get two Republican votes to support that."
According to Raw Story, Sanders was referring to his bill in February that contained 140 provisions and called for more VA clinics.
The VA scandal erupted last month when it was revealed that at least 40 veterans in Phoenix had died after being placed on falsified lists that showed they had been waiting for treatment from a doctor for a much shorter period than they really were.
The corruption scheme is now being investigated at VA facilities across the country, and has led to calls from Republicans and Democrats for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
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