September 21, 2014
Obama determined to get to the bottom of Veterans scandal
US President Barack Obama vowed today to get to the bottom of allegations of neglect of veterans' healthcare and made clear Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's job may be on the line as he scrambled to contain a budding controversy.
The President appeared in the White House press briefing room moments after meeting Shinseki and Rob Nabors, the top Obama aide who is leading a review into allegations that long wait times for veterans seeking medical treatment could have led to some deaths.
"If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period," an angry-sounding Obama said.
He said he expects to get the preliminary results of a review about the scope of the problem at the Veterans Administration next week.
"When I hear allegations of misconduct, any misconduct, whether it's allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books, I will not stand for it, not as commander in chief, but also not as an American," Obama said.
Obama sidestepped a question as to whether Shinseki had tendered his resignation, but hinted that the retired four-star general may not want to stay on if it turns out the allegations are as sweeping as suggested.
"If he thinks he's let our veterans down, then I'm sure that he is not going to be interested in continuing to serve," Obama said. "At this stage, Ric is committed to solving the problem and working with us to do it."
Until now the White House has insisted Shinseki enjoyed Obama's confidence and officials have drawn parallels between him and Kathleen Sebelius, who stayed on as secretary of health and human services for months trying to clean up problems with the rollout of Obama's signature healthcare law.
The VA reports are the latest allegations of bureaucratic mismanagement to hit the Obama administration after the botched the rollout of the national healthcare website and the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny.
The flap is particularly biting for Obama because he and his wife, Michelle, have put much time into caring for veterans who have returned from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them with disabling injuries.