POLITICS: PennAve

White House week ahead: Will Obama address Veterans Affairs controversy?

By |
Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,Veterans Affairs,Health Care,PennAve,Military Budget,Eric Shinseki,Scandals

President Obama is facing growing calls this week to address the simmering controversy over the backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs and a series of deaths at VA hospitals.

The president last week dispatched Rob Nabors, his deputy chief of staff, to oversee a review of the VA, but he has not publicly addressed the issue since a press conference with reporters in Asia three weeks ago.

In his daily briefing Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Obama would "soon" address the VA allegations. He provided no further details about upcoming remarks from the president.

Responding to criticism, the White House insists Obama is working behind the scenes to get answers to allegations that have angered veterans, lawmakers and an increasing number of voters.

“Nobody is more outraged about this problem right now … than the president of the United States,” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough insisted Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“As it relates to these allegations, what we’re going to do, is we’re going to get to the bottom of them and ensure we understand exactly what happened and ensure that it never happens again,” he added.

Still, the White House has not yet announced plans for Obama to publicly address the VA issue this week.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will have lunch with combatant commanders Monday, but that event is closed to the press.

And even some Democrats are beginning to wonder when Obama will speak out more forcefully on the controversy.

“I assume he’ll say something soon,” said one Democratic strategist with close ties to the White House. “He really has no choice.”

Dr. Robert Petzel, the VA's under secretary of health, announced his resignation Friday, but the agency’s top health official had already planned to retire this year.

And the White House has resisted calls to fire Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The Washington Examiner previously reported more than 1.5 million medical orders were destroyed at veterans hospitals without proof that patients received medical care. Another Examiner investigation found that medical appointments were purged at facilities in Los Angeles and Dallas to make the backlogs look smaller.

The Obama administration also has faced allegations that hospital administrators in Phoenix destroyed records to cover up phony waiting lists for medical care. As many as 40 patients died there because of delays in care, according to allegations referred to the inspector general for investigation.

After his lunch with military leaders Monday, Obama will attend a fundraiser for Democrats in Maryland.

On Wednesday, the president participates in an ambassador credentialing ceremony and welcomes the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks to the White House. And Obama Thursday heads to Chicago for a pair of Democratic fundraisers.

This article was published at 7:30 a.m. and has since been updated.

View article comments Leave a comment