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Topics: Veterans Affairs

No phony scandal here: Poll shows Americans more willing to cut Obama slack on Bergdahl deal than on handling of Veterans Affairs scandal

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,White House,Veterans Affairs,Polls,Veterans,Scandals,Becket Adams

A majority of Americans disapprove of President Obama's handling of the burgeoning scandal in the Department of Veterans Affairs, and they're following the situation closely, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday.

Roughly 63 percent of survey respondents say they dissatisfied with Obama’s approach to the VA’s problems, while only 29 percent say they approve.

Further, 69 percent of survey respondents said they are following the situation "very" or "somewhat closely," Gallup reported, adding that interest has grown since Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned earlier this month in disgrace.

Only 10 percent of survey respondents said they are “not at all” following the scandal, which alleges federal corruption, inappropriately awarded bonuses and falsified wait times that may have hidden the fact that several veterans died while awaiting medical treatment.

When asked to rate the president's handling of other issues, including terrorism and the environment, he fared a little better, polling at around 42 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

In fact, with a favorability rate of 38 percent, more Americans approve of the president's widely panned decision to exchange five Taliban officers for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, according to Gallup.

Of course, this isn't to say the president polls well in these areas. Quite the opposite, actually. But it does underscore the fact that the VA scandal is likely to become a major problem for the White House.

The Gallup survey was conducted from June 5-8 and contains a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Focus on the VA has increased as details of the widespread problems that plague that organization become more troublesome and gruesome.

However, as Gallup notes, although a majority of Americans are following the VA scandal, national interest in the story lags behind similarly tragic events, including Hurricane Katrina, which polled at around 96 percent, and the 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Conn., which polled at around 87 percent.

For an additional bit of perspective, roughly 91 percent of polled Americans said they closely followed the details surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“But the level of attention to the VA scandal does exceed the average 60 percent who report closely following more than 200 major news stories since 1991,” according the Gallup survey, which polled 1,027 adults aged 18 years or older.

So what’s the bottom line?

“The VA scandal could remain on the minds of Americans for quite some time. With several news reports noting that the alleged inadequate healthcare preceded the Obama administration, it may take years for any potential fix to work, even as Congress is urgently working on legislation to address the issue,” Gallup reported.

“At the moment, a strong majority of Americans are following this matter closely, and Americans give the president low marks for his handling of it. This may have implications for policies and politics in 2014 and beyond."

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