Tags: Barack Obama | VA Scandal | veterans | va | scandal | john boehner | wait times

Boehner: Vets Still Waiting for Obama's Promised 'New Day at VA'

By    |   Wednesday, 20 May 2015 01:31 PM

President Barack Obama owes Americans "a real, long-term plan" to fix the problems with the nation's Veterans Administration system, House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday, but that reform has not come in the year since the VA secretary, Eric Shinseki, resigned.

"Not a promise, or a pledge, or a rearranging of deck chairs," Boehner said in his opening one-minute speech at the beginning of the House's session on Wednesday. He further demanded that Obama come up with "a real plan to clean up this mess."

On May 30, 2014, Shinseki apologized in public before resigning at the White House after agency investigators reported widespread problems in the VA's sprawling hospital system. As the scandal unfolded, it was revealed that thousands of veterans, including some 1,700 in a Phoenix hospital, had never been added to official wait lists and that some had died waiting for care.

Boehner said Wednesday that when Shinseki resigned, Obama promised reforms, but "instead of a new day at the VA, the American people are seeing more of the same."

Last year, when the scandal was revealed, Congress allowed the VA secretary the authority to fire employees, said Boehner. Instead, while it was revealed that 110 VA facilities kept secret lists to hide the time lengths veterans were forced to wait for care, "just one person has been fired for it — what the hell happened to the rest of them?"

Some of the employees were permitted to retire with benefits, said Boehner, while others got transferred, received paid leave, and some got "a slap on the wrist."

All of them, he said, "go right on collecting checks from taxpayers. If only the VA did half as good a job taking care of our veterans as they do their own bureaucrats."

Last year, Congress also allowed more than $16 billion for the VA to improve its services and reduce wait times, but the number of patients facing wait times remains about the same, said Boehner, and "the number of patients waiting more than 90 days has nearly doubled. "

And at this point, even hospitals, and "just about every project" ends up months behind schedule and millions or billions over budget, said Boehner, and "just last week, the public learned that the VA is spending $6 billion a year illegally."

The revelation came in a 35-page internal memo sent to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, in which Jan Frye, deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics, accuses the agency's leadership of "gross mismanagement" and making a "mockery" of federal acquisition laws that mandate competitive bidding and proper contracting.

He said there is a culture of "lawlessness and chaos" at the Veterans Health Administration.

Boehner said the report's author, "their own expert," wrote that "'doors are swung wide open for fraud, waste and abuse,'" and that these actions "'may potentially result in serious harm or death to America’s veterans.'"

Such things aren't "run-of-the-mill incompetence," said Boehner, but "it is arrogance — arrogance that allows our veterans to be lied to, ignored, and left to die."

Boehner commended the House Veterans Affairs Committee and its chairman, Rep.
Jeff Miller, R-Florida, for working to fulfill the obligation to veterans and said Congress will keep passing legislation for the VA, but "only the administration can change the culture from within ... and I will keep coming back to this podium until this administration produces such a plan."

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President Barack Obama owes Americans "a real, long-term plan" to fix the problems with the nation's Veterans Administration system, House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday, but that reform has not come in the year since the VA secretary, Eric Shinseki, resigned.
veterans, va, scandal, john boehner, wait times
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2015-31-20
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 01:31 PM
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