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Tag Archives: VA scandal

Obama Actually Drives Past Phoenix VA Hospital

Not only did he fail to visit, but President Obama today SPED RIGHT BY the VA hospital in Phoenix that was the epicenter of a scandal over long wait times for care.

As the scandal unfolded last year, Obama made pious statements about his commitment to reform the Veterans Affairs hospital system. When it was revealed earlier this week that he would be speaking at a location about a mile away from the hospital, veterans and Republicans, led by Arizona Sen. John McCain, called on him to pay a visit.

The White House indicated it wasn’t going to happen. But in a move that amounts to giving the finger to his critics, Obama’s motorcade actually drove past the facility without stopping.

To be fair, it isn’t clear Obama or his aides knew the route the motorcade would take.

It’s not as if Obama didn’t have time for unscheduled events. He met with former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, whose shooting has become a symbol for a topic Obama is passionate about, gun control.

Obama’s Inspired Choice for the VA

President Obama’s nomination of former Proctor & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs is a deft move that offers hope for our nation’s veterans, too many of whom who have suffered tragically and needlessly at the hands of the Veterans Health Administration.

What the president is trying to do, incredibly for him, is bring a serious dose of the private sector to the public and hope it can prod the VHA in the direction of greater efficiency and efficacy.

The VHA’s dysfunction is probably so great that the only way to truly serve our veterans’s health needs is to privatize their care through some kind of voucher system. But obviously, with this administration, that’s not going to happen. So McDonalds’ appointment is the best that can be expected.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Monday explained the appointment cogently:

Mr. McDonald was principally chosen because he has the kind of record as a solid manager that will be required of the next Secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department to put in place the reforms that are needed to live up to our covenant that we have made, that our nation has made, with our men and women in uniform.

Those management chops are going to be critical to his success, and they’re going to be critical to ensuring that our country lives up to the commitment that we’ve made to our men and women in uniform.

In choosing for our veterans, Obama opted to ignore that McDonald has contributed to Republicans, including Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, Speaker John Boehner, and even, yes, Mitt Romney.

The chief complaints against McDonald include that though himself a former Army captain, he’s not up to speed with Iraq and Afghanistan’s veterans. Well, he’ll get up to speed. The essence of a great executive is that their skills are not only abundant but transferable – that they can be working for Mastercard one day and Coca Cola the next.

McDonald Obama BidenMcDonald, Obama and Biden walk to the White House Monday

McDonald was also ultimately forced out at P&G, but only after climbing the ladder to the top and staying there for four years. The complaints about him seem to be more that he failed to come up with the next great shampoo than that he wasn’t a good manager. And management and restructuring will be at the core of McDonald’s mission at the VA.

He’s a man who understands how to maintain a grasp on a sprawling, unwieldy organization. True, he’ll be bumping up against Catch-22’s daily in government that he could never have imagined in the private sector. But he’s better equipped to deal with them than folks who have been in government too long and adapted to its ways.

He may be the best hope for now our veterans have of getting decent health care, and Obama should be applauded for choosing him

Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki Resigns

President Obama today announced that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned, saying Shinseki himself had come to the conclusion that he could no longer function effectively.

Speaking at the White House, Obama said that the resignation was based on “Rick’s judgement” and Shinseki’s belief that he would be a distraction:

He has worked hard to investigate and identify the problems with access to care, but as he told me this morning, the VA needs new leadership to address them.

He does not want to be a distraction, because his priority is to fix the problem and make sure our vets are getting the care that they need. That was Ric’s judgment on behalf of his fellow veterans. And I agree. We don’t have time for distractions; we need to fix the problem.

Obama seemed to minimize Shinseki’s culpability, saying Shinseki was “offended” information about the problems at the VA didn’t get up the chain of command to the secretary.

I think he is deeply disappointed in the fact that bad news did not get to him and that the structures weren’t in place for him to identify this problem quickly and fix it. 

But Obama was also careful to gently lay some of the blame on Shinseki:

This morning I think some of you also heard Ric take a truly remarkable action. In public remarks, he took responsibility for the conduct of those facilities and apologized to his fellow veterans and to the American people. And a few minutes ago, Secretary Shinseki offered me his own recognition. With considerable regret, I accept it.

Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson will take over as acting secretary, said Obama, who indicated someone else would be brought in as a permanent replacement.

Obama acknowledged that as president he bears responsibility, and then he immediately seemed to pass the buck, noting the VA’s problems predated him, saying he’d done much to help the agency, and blaming others for not bringing the issue to his or Shinseki’s attention.

This predates my presidency. When I was in the Senate, I was on the Veterans Affairs Committee. I heard first-hand veterans who were not getting the kinds of services and benefits that they had earned . . . 

And so, what I can say confidently is that this has been a priority. It’s been a priority reflected in my budget, and that in terms of managing the VA, where we have seen a problem — where we have been aware of a problem, we have gone after it and fixed it and have been able to make significant progress.

But what is absolutely clear is, this one — this issue of scheduling is one that the reporting systems inside of the VHA did not surface to the level where Rick (sp) was aware of it we were able to see it. This was not something that we were hearing when I was traveling around the country, the particular issue of scheduling.

Obama said changes will be needed at the VA, including a change of culture. But his focus seemed to be on throwing more money at the place, not a wholesale reform in the way veterans get their healthcare, as is being suggested by some Republicans.

“We may need to get more doctors and we may need to get more nurses,” Obama said.

Shinseki Apologizes but Gives No Hint He’ll Resign

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized publicly today for the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but suggested he was apologizing for the sins of others and gave no indication he is about to resign. “Given the facts I know now, I apologize as the senior leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Shinseki… Continue Reading

Carney Refuses to Say Obama has Confidence in Shinseki

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today carefully avoided saying that President Obama continues to have confidence in Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, suggesting a decision on whether he wants Shinseki to stay on will await an internal VA audit due by the end of the week. “He expects to receive a preliminary report very soon… Continue Reading

Video || Koffler on TV Discussing the VA Scandal

Here’s my latest appearance on One American News Network’s Rick Amato show. It aired Wednesday night, and the questions focused – I know this will surprise you – on Obama’s remarks earlier in the day about the Veterans Affairs scandal. OANN, the growing conservative news channel, started on AT&T just yesterday where it can be viewed on channel 208… Continue Reading

Three Reasons Why Obama Didn’t Dump Shinseki

President Obama’s decision not to fire VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is less mysterious than it seems. Here’s why he’s keeping him on: Obama is Shinseki, and Shinseki is Obama. Eric Shinseki assumed office the day after Obama did in 2009. For Obama to fire Shinseki at this point is to admit his own inadequacy and to reveal what… Continue Reading

Obama Tries to Dodge Blame in VA Scandal; Keeps Shinseki

A somewhat bedraggled and not particularly angry-looking President Obama took to the briefing room today to attempt to shirk blame for the burgeoning VA scandal, saying the problem began before him and touting the “progress” he has made fixing the various messes littering the agency. What’s more, he said he continues to support Veterans Affairs Secretary… Continue Reading

Video || Carney Caught Trying to Have it Both Ways

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was called out Monday for, on the one hand, asserting that the “investigation” at the Veterans Affairs Department must continue – a key defense for not firing Secretary Shinseki – and on the other suggesting that the resignation of VA Undersecretary Robert Petzel was related to the scandal. Carney… Continue Reading