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Tags: The VA Scandal

Obama Accepts Shinseki’s Resignation



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President Obama announced that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki offered his resignation in a private meeting Friday morning.

“A few minutes ago, Sec. Shinseki offered me his own resignation. With considerable regret, I accepted,” Obama said.

Christi Parsons of the Chicago Tribune asked if Shinseki is a political scapegoat, and the president conceded that “the distractions were in part political.”

Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary of the VA, will become the acting Secretary. Rob Nabors, Deputy Chief of Staff, will stay at the VA to help with the transition.

“We don’t have times for distractions. We need to fix the problem,” Obama said.

Shinseki apologized for his failings Friday morning at a meeting of the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans in Washington D.C.

Tags: The VA Scandal

Shinseki Apologizes, Says He’ll Fire Senior Leaders at Phoenix VA



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Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized Friday for ”irresponsible and unacceptable” behavior at 46 VA health facilities across the country. He announced that he’s started the process of firing leadership at the Phoenix facility at the center of the scandal.

“I can’t explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health-care facilities,” he said. “This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform. And so I will not defend it, because it is indefensible, but I can take responsibility for it and I do.”

Shinseki made his remarks Friday morning at a meeting of the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans in Washington D.C., and at 10:15 a.m. today he will give President Obama an update on the scandal. 

Prior to their meeting, Obama told ABC’s Live! with Kelly and Michael that the two will have a “serious conversation” about Shinseki’s performance.

​More than 100 lawmakers, including many Democrats in the throes of a tough midterm election season, have called on Shinseki to resign.

Tags: The VA Scandal

The Veterans Affairs Scandal



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The interim report of the inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding the waiting-list scandal that has exploded into public view in recent weeks is devastating. In its wake, there is no question that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign or should be dismissed. Shinseki is, of course, an honorable and deeply impressive man, but he is the executive in charge of an agency that has badly failed in its core mission here.

Even given the lax standards of cabinet-level accountability that have characterized the last few administrations, there is no excuse for keeping Shinseki in office at this point. What appears to have happened here is far worse than a management failure. It is a pattern of exceptionally widespread, systematic, and even criminal deception throughout an agency Shinseki oversees.

Reading the report, and reflecting on my own exposure to the structure and management of the VA, which intersected with my responsibilities as a health-policy staffer in the Bush White House on several occasions, I’m left with a few thoughts on the scandal.

First, it is important to understand just how serious the misdeeds of the Phoenix VA hospital (and apparently quite a few others) really are. The core of the scandal is what appears to have been a highly organized effort to cook the books in order to be able to report far shorter wait times for care than were actually achieved. Veterans awaiting care were kept off the formal waiting list (so that the wait-time clock did not start ticking) and handled through a series of ad hoc informal queues, which were themselves carelessly kept and badly mishandled. To work, this system appears to have required the active collusion of a large number of people at each VA facility in question, involving everything from telephone operators keeping some appointment requests out of the system to senior managers turning off audit controls on the hospital’s scheduling software to make it impossible to know who manipulated the system and how. The IG notes that some of these actions were almost certainly outright crimes. It’s not clear if what has happened at the many other VA facilities that have now been drawn into this scandal was as deep and broad, but it does look that way in at least some cases.

Second, the lengths to which VA employees were willing to go to report shorter wait times is a function of a longstanding emphasis (by Congress, successive administrations, and the veterans’ groups) on wait times as a primary performance measure, but this emphasis has not been tied (by any of them) to structural reforms that might actually enable the VA to function more efficiently. Centrally run, highly bureaucratic, public health-care systems that do not permit meaningful pricing and do not allow for competition among providers of care can really only respond to supply and demand pressures through waiting lines. It happens everywhere, but when it has happened at the VA the response has been to criticize waiting times rather than to reconsider how the system is organized.

Keep reading this post . . .

Tags: The VA Scandal

Krauthammer’s Take: ‘Shinseki is a Dead Man’



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Charles Krauthammer said on Special Report that all signs point to VA Secretary Shinseki leaving his post by the weekend.

He thinks the president’s had one too many leadership failures — Obamacare’s botched launch and the IRS scandal — and the new VA scandal will finally force Obama to make a firm decision: axe Shinseki.

“Add it all together, and Shinseki is a dead man,” Krauthammer said. “What you heard today was an invitation for a resignation, and I think he’s gone by the weekend.”

Tags: The VA Scandal

Eric Shinseki Is Probably Going to Go, in One Chart



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To play FiveThirtyEight to Rich Lowry’s Paddy Power, Jason Millman of Wonkbook provides the following chart to illustrate the growing wave of Democratic congressmen calling for VA secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation:

Tags: The VA Scandal

DCCC Chair: Shinseki Should Resign



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One of the highest-ranking House Democrats thinks the Department of Veterans Affairs controversy has reached the point where Secretary Eric Shinseki should step down “to turn over a new leaf” at the department. “He should resign, in my view,” Representative Steve Israel of New York told CNN on Thursday.

Israel, who also serves as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, explained that while Shinseki’s resignation is probably necessary, it ultimately won’t solve the problems at the VA.

“There are too many of my colleagues who are just saying that that resignation is going to solve the problem — it’s not going to solve the problem,” he said. “What’s going to solve the problem is a criminal investigation, with or without his resignation, and getting to the roots of this to make sure that it’s solved and never happens again.”

Since a recent inspector general’s report, a flood of Democratic lawmakers have called on Shinseki to resign or be fired.

Tags: The VA Scandal

Shinseki



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The smart betting is that he resigns tomorrow afternoon.

Tags: The VA Scandal

Carney Won’t Say Whether Obama Has Confidence in Shinseki



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Last week, after meeting with Eric Shinseki President Obama stood by the embattled Veterans Affairs secretary amid the ongoing controversy over the department’s mismanagement. On Thursday, as a recent inspector general’s report further revealed problems at a Phoenix hospital, the president’s spokesman isn’t saying one way or the other whether Obama still supports Shinseki.

During his daily press briefing, Jay Carney dodged a repeated “yes-or-no question” from ABC’s Jon Karl: “Does the president, right now, have confidence in Eric Shinseki? You told us last week he did have confidence — does he have confidence now?”

At first, Carney praised Shinseki’s overall tenure as secretary, as well as his time as a general. As Carney’s answers failed to suffice, Karl repeatedly pressed for a direct answer.

“What I would point you to is what the president said when asked about his view on Secretary Shinseki, and I’m not going to improve upon his words in this regard,” Carney said, adding that the White House will wait until the findings of the investigation next month before taking action.

Tags: The VA Scandal

Democrats in Tight Races Rush to Demand Shinseki’s Ouster



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More Democratic lawmakers have joined the chorus of politicians calling for Veterans Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki to resign or be fired.

On Wednesday, we reported North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, Colorado’s Mark Udall, and Montana’s John Walsh released statements supporting Shinseki’s ouster for the mismanagement at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Since then, Minnesota’s Al Franken and New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen have also called on him to go. All five of these senators are facing relatively competitive reelection efforts this year.

Representatives Bruce Braley of Iowa and Gary Peters of Michigan, who are both running for their states’ respective open Senate seats, also called on Shinseki to go. Polls show close races between Braley and Peters and their Republican opponents.

As of Thursday morning, Braley and Peters have been joined by at least 15 other House Democrats calling for Shinseki to leave, many of whom are in competitive races, such as Arizona’s Ron Barber, Minnesota’s Rick Nolan, and California’s Scott Peters.

The Military Times has a comprehensive list of lawmakers pushing for Shinseki to go.

UPDATE: Virginia’s Democratic senator Mark Warner just tweeted that Shinseki should “step aside now.” Warner is currently facing former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s senate race this year.

Tags: The VA Scandal

First Senate Dems Call on Shinseki to Go



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A new inspector general report finding more than 1,700 veterans were placed on fake waiting lists at an Arizona hospital has triggered the first two Democratic senators to demand that Department of Veterans Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki resign.

On Wednesday, Senators Mark Udall of Colorado and John Walsh of Montana called on Shinseki to go. Udall said that Shinseki “must step down” in a statement, while Walsh released his own statement calling on President Obama “to remove Secretary Shinseki from office.”

While other Democratic candidates this cycle have called for Shinseki’s ouster — such as Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes​, Georgia’s Michelle Nunn, and West Virginia’s Natalie Tennant — Udall and Walsh became the first incumbents to do so in light of challenging reelection campaigns against their respective Republican challengers, Representatives Cory Gardner and Steve Daines.

Last week in the House, Democratic Georgia representatives John Barrow and David Scott also said Shinseki should go.

The review has prompted Republican lawmakers to also join the growing chorus of Shinseki’s critics, including Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman Jeff Miller (R., Fla.).

UPDATE: North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan, who is seen as one of the more vulnerable incumbents this cycle, has called on Shinseki to go as well.

“Secretary Shinseki has served our country honorably over many decades, but in the interest of regaining the trust of our veterans, and implementing real and lasting reforms, I believe it is time for him to step aside and allow new leadership to take the helm at the VA to correct these failings immediately,” she said in a statement.

Tags: The VA Scandal

McCain: ‘It’s Reached that Point’ Where Shinseki Should Resign



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The mismanagement at the Department of Veterans Affairs has reached a tipping point, and John McCain thinks its head should be held accountable. “I haven’t said this before, but I think it’s time for General Shinseki to move on,” the Arizona Republican and veteran told CNN.

“I think it’s reached that point,” McCain said ahead of a hearing on the department’s practices. “The Phoenix VA is not an island — it’s not immune to other influences; every other VA is probably going to have these same influences on them because they were trying to comply with guidelines that were laid down from the headquarters of the VA that they couldn’t meet.”

McCain’s call for Shinseki to resign comes after an inspector general report found that nearly 2,000 veterans at the VA hospital in Phoenix were placed on fake, or “phantom,” waiting lists. As a result, delays were covered up and hidden while veterans “continue to be at risk of being forgotten or lost.” The Phoenix hospital reported that veterans waited an average of 24 days for primary-care appointments, when in reality they waited more than three months on average.

Tags: The VA Scandal

Former Dem Senator Webb on VA: ‘We Got a Leadership Problem’



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Former Virginia Democratic senator and veteran Jim Webb expressed his dismay with the mismanagement of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and appeared to suggest that Secretary Eric Shinseki must go.

“We got a leadership problem — we just have to admit it,” said Webb, who previously served as secretary of the Navy, on MSNBC on Tuesday. He added that “it’s not a problem with style, it’s not a problem of intent” plaguing the department, but rather a problem with how it is run.

“We know that demographics work against easily solving the problem, but we need to get the leaders in there and solve the problem — it’s a critical problem,” he said.

Webb joins an increasing number of Democrats criticizing the administration’s handling of the VA, including former lawmakers. Last week, former Nebraska Democratic senator and veteran Bob Kerrey condemned the “terrible culture throughout the VA,” and said Shinseki “needs to step aside.”

Tags: The VA Scandal

Krauthammer’s Take: Obama Must Give Vouchers To Waiting Vets



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Charles Krauthammer said that the Obama administration must use their authority to let veterans seek civilian healthcare.  

“It turns out the VA has had the authority to issue out vouchers, to allow a vet who has been waiting forever to go out and get private care,” he said. “They should have done that on day one when the scandal broke.”

Despite the president saying he’s ”mad as hell” about the VA scandal, he also called the scandal “allegations,” and said they must be investigated. Krauthammer said the president cannot have it both ways.

“How can you be ‘mad as hell’ at allegations? It’s just not consistent. It’s like him saying ‘I learned about it in the newspapers’ and I’ve been working on it for six years,” Krauthammer said. 

 

Tags: The VA Scandal

Kinzinger: DOJ Should Be Involved in Investigating Fake Waiting Lists



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U.S. representative Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) said the VA’s secret waiting lists display “a level of incompetency — to a level of criminality” on Face the Nation Sunday.

The representative, an Air Force veteran, said the VA’s long claims backlog was a sign of incompetent bureaucracy, but that the fake list “is criminal negligence.”

The president hasn’t shown the “intense outrage” that he should over the VA scandal, Kinzinger said, and the Department of Justice should be involved.

Tags: The VA Scandal , Sunday Shows May 25 2014

Will’s Take: Private Sector Should Help the VA, Their Work ‘Gets Done’



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George Will echoed Charles Krauthammer today in calling on the federal government to alleviate the VA crisis by working with the private sector. 

On Fox News Sunday, Will suggested that Republicans running in the midterm elections should remind voters that, when the federal government created the highway system they are using this Memorial Day weekend, it utilized the private sector. “It got done, and it can do the same thing” with health services for our veterans, Will said.

Tags: The VA Scandal , Sunday Shows May 25 2014

Krauthammer’s Take: Obama’s ‘Stonewall Playbook’ Won’t Work on VA Scandal



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​While the Obama administration has largely been able to fend off criticism from many of its looming controversies, it won’t be able to do the same with the mismanagement at the Department of Veterans Affairs given the wide scope and various reports and anecdotes of the problem, Charles Krauthammer said on Friday’s Special Report.

In the past, the White House used the “stonewall playbook” of refraining from commenting on scandals by pointing to an ongoing investigations, in which there was largely no other source of outside information and allowed the administration to more feasibly control the narrative. In regards to the VA scandal though, Krauthammer explained that with more and more victims and their families coming forward every day and revealing various examples of malpractice at facilities and hospitals, it makes the situation more difficult for the White House to manage public perception.

“To say, ‘We can’t know what happened unless there’s investigation or until it comes in,’ is simply untenable,” he said. “I don’t think they understand that — it’s rather simple — and in the end it’s going to be absolutely a position they’re going to have to cave on, and [Secretary Eric] Shinseki is going to have to go.”

Tags: The VA Scandal

The VA’s Long History of Corrupt Incompetence—And How to Fix It



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There are so many remarkable elements to the Veterans Health Administration scandal. But to me, the most striking is how much the stories coming out of the VA resemble those that come out of the British National Health Service: like the VA, a fully socialized system in which the government owns the hospitals, employs the doctors, and serves as the insurer.

This is an important point, one I discuss in a lengthy piece for Forbes today. Obamacare, for all its faults, is not technically socialized medicine. It’s part single-payer (Medicaid), and part subsidized/regulated/privatized (the exchanges). There is no health care system in America that is more government-driven, with all of the unaccountability and dishonesty therein, than the VA.

So if the VA is more socialized than even Obamacare is, why haven’t Republicans taken it on? In part because they’ve been afraid to. While many vets are dissatisfied with the care they get in the VA system, Republicans haven’t done the heavy lifting necessary to show that private-sector reforms could offer veterans better coverage and better care:

On Veteran’s Day in 2011, Mitt Romney met with a group of veterans in South Carolina. The vets shared with him their difficulty in getting treatment from VA hospitals. Observed Romney, “If you’re the government, they know there’s nowhere else you guys can go. You’re stuck. Sometimes you wonder if there would be some way to introduce some private-sector competition, somebody else that could come in and say, you know, that each soldier gets X thousand dollars attributed to them, and then they can choose whether they want to go in the government system or in a private system with the money that follows them.”

For this innocuous and appropriate suggestion, Romney was pilloried by the usual suspects on the left—but also, inexcusably, by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, whose spokesperson said, “The VFW doesn’t support privatization of veterans’ health care.” Romney, stung by the VFW’s rebuke, walked back his suggestion, and Republicans have stayed silent on it ever since.

But this may be starting to change:

Until now. On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) told Roll Call that he was working with Sens. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) and Richard Burr (R., N.C.) on a new reform plan. “Let’s let our veterans choose the health care that they need and want the most and not have to be bound to just going to the VA…Why wouldn’t a veteran who has served his country honorably . . . not be able to go to the health care provider of his or her choice?”

This is a promising development. Put simply, veterans will continue to suffer until they have the option to buy private coverage and seek private care. The premium support approach will allow the government to provide maximum subsidies to those who have suffered serious injuries in combat, and provide conventional subsidies to non-combat veterans who deserve traditional health coverage.

Much of the noise among Republicans in Congress is about making sure that “heads roll” in the VA scandal. But appointing a new Secretary of Veterans Affairs won’t do a dime’s bit of difference. Without fundamental changes, the VA’s flawed socialist model will remain intact. Reforming the VA will be one way for Republicans to show that they are serious about reforming the rest of the health-care system.
 

Tags: The VA Scandal

Krauthammer’s Take: If VA Problems Are Systemic, Why Not Privatize?



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Charles Krauthammer argued that privatizing the VA’s services makes sense if their appointment coordinating problems stem from the “bureaucratic structure.”

“If you’re not ideological, and if you brought in some expert and asked how to attack the problem right now, you would decide to give everyone on the list a voucher to go anywhere they want, and they’ll get their care within days,” he said.

The VA’s currently yearly budget allocates around $10,000 per veteran. The Obama administration could fix the problem by doling out vouchers for veterans to purchase private insurance, “but an administration like this would not even contemplate that.”

Krauthammer ask that if the VA’s problems stem from the drawbacks of a government-run system, “why wouldn’t you contemplate voucherizing and privatizing?”

Tags: The VA Scandal

Grimes Calls for VA Secretary To Resign



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Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic challenger to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign over the brewing scandal in his department.

“We owe a solemn obligation to our veterans and our government defaulted on that contract,” Grimes said in a statement. ”I don’t see how that breach of trust with our veterans can be repaired if the current leadership stays in place.”

Senator McConnell said earlier this month that a leadership change at the VA “might be a good thing,” but he stopped short of calling for Shinseki to step down. President Obama defended Shinseki on Wednesday and promised “accountability” following further investigation into allegations against the VA. 

Tags: The VA Scandal

Geraghty: Obama’s ‘Galling’ Response to VA Scandal



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