President Obama spoke out Wednesday against allegations that staff at the US Department of Veterans Affairs falsified data to disguise the lengthy and possibly fatal waiting times it took for veterans to see doctors.
Forty U.S Veterans reportedly died as a result of the delays.
The President says if the reports are proven true, that the behavior is “dishonorable” and “disgraceful.”
He also says anyone found guilty of falsifying and manipulating records at the Veterans Affairs hospitals “will be held accountable.”
“I will not stand for it, not as commander in chief but also not as an American,” Obama says. “None of us should.”
There are also reports about similar cases in Albuquerque, and perhaps other cities.
Obama spoke after meeting with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki inside the Oval Office on Wednesday. White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors was also at the meeting.
The White House says Nabors has been assigned to assist top VA officials during probing allegations of mismanagement by staffers at the Phoenix facility.
The Washington Post reports, “He will be meeting with Arizona hospital officials Thursday after gathering Wednesday with representatives from several veterans groups in Washington.”
Some GOP Senators are clamoring for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, a democrat, says there is “solid evidence” and “a pattern, apparently, of manipulating lists, gaming the system.”
Blumenthal is also calling it a “potentially criminal act” and wants the administration to bring in outside help, like the FBI.
Wes Moore, former U.S. Army combat veteran and noted author of the New York Times bestseller, The Other Wes Moore tells Black Enterprise about the scandal brewing at the VA.
“We’ve known about these issues for more than a decade. They are not new,” says Moore. “There needs to be accountability to ensure that our vets are being taken care of. There needs to be a full investigation into what has taken place.”
There are some suggestions that the VA may be overwhelmed.
VA Hospitals reportedly see as many as 200,000 veterans a day, believed to have been caused by an influx of new veterans from recent U.S. military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an aging population of Baby Boomer veterans.
There are also reportedly 85 million appointments scheduled over a year at VA Hospitals.
Moore says, “They have to keep looking for ways in which we can assist our veterans. This scandal is a reminder that we have real work to do. There is verification from multiple sources that this is systemic. Veterans were promised better. They have earned the rights for their basic fundamental issues to be addressed.”
Moore also has a three-part series airing this month on PBS.
“Coming back with Wes Moore“ takes a candid look at our veterans as they come back home and begin the difficult transition of assimilating and prepare to lead normal lives. The three-episode series tells the story of his search for answers to some of the most difficult questions related to returning from war. Moore’s journey takes him into the personal lives of different soldiers as they attempt to establish new identities and new lives.
Moore says the show “profiles 10 veterans but they represent a much larger equation.”
According to NPR, “The VA is currently the subject of two main inquiries: an inspector general investigations of hospitals that were accused of fudging their reported statistics, and a broader audit ordered by Shinseki of all VA health centers. The findings of both of those inquiries are expected to be released this summer.”