Although the Obama administration can hardly be blamed for the questionable behavior going on at several Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country, Sen. John McCain says the White House should be handling the fallout more convincingly.
While delivering the Weekly Republican Address, the Arizona senator focused most of his comments on VA allegations and the way they've been managed since they first came to light.
"Decent care for our veterans is among the most solemn obligations a nation incurs, and we will be judged by God and history by how well we discharge ours," he said. "That's why I'm so deeply troubled by the recent allegations of gross mismanagement, fraud and neglect at a growing number of Veterans Administration medical centers across the country."
He said it has been more than a month since allegations surfaced of 40 veterans dying while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA.
"To date, the Obama administration has failed to respond in an effective manner. This has created in our veterans' community a crisis of confidence toward the VA -- the very agency that was established to care for them," McCain said. "But treating those to whom we owe the most so callously -- so ungratefully -- is unconscionable, and we should all be ashamed."
McCain also brought up reports of "secret wait lists" that hospitals kept that showed how long veterans were waiting for appointments. The first allegation arose from the Phoenix VA, and similar accusations have emerged from VA clinics and hospitals across the country, McCain said.
Secretary Eric Shinseki has ordered a nationwide audit to look at management practices in VA hospitals. On Friday, VA Undersecretary Robert Petzel, the No. 2 man in the department, resigned amid the criticism surrounding the agency.
Additionally, several employees have been placed on administrative leave, and the VA Office of Inspector General is in the process of investigating the Phoenix VA allegations.
"I respect the important role of the Inspector General, but my fellow veterans can't wait the many months it may take to issue its report. They need answers, accountability and leadership from this administration and Congress now," McCain said. "Clearly, the VA is suffering from a systemic, cultural problem that Congress cannot resolve with piecemeal responses.
"What's needed is a total refocusing of the VA on its core mission of serving veterans -- stretching from its top political leadership all the way through to its career civil servants who, as recent reports suggest, may have been too often motivated by all the wrong incentives and rewards."
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