Lots of people were surprised -- and dismayed -- that President Obama didn't announce the end of Eric Shinseki's tenure as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs after the two met on Wednesday. But pushing out Shinseki would have disturbed the narrative Obama wants Americans -- and a compliant liberal mainstream media -- to believe: that the VA's inability to appropriately handle medical care for eligible veterans who need it was a longtime problem he inherited and has mostly been trying to fix.
"We all know that it often takes too long for veterans to get the care that they need. That’s not a new development. It’s been a problem for decades and it’s been compounded by more than a decade of war," Obama said. "That’s why, when I came into office, I said we would systematically work to fix these problems, and we have been working really hard to address them. My attitude is, for folks who have been fighting on the battlefield, they should not have to fight a bureaucracy at home to get the care that they’ve earned."
|Obama wants to wait for a full report on the problems with VA medical care before he decides how to fix it and who to blame.|
Obama said he wanted to wait for a full report on the scope of the problems with VA medical care before he decides how to fix it and who to blame. "It is important that our veterans don’t become another political football, especially when so many of them are receiving care right now. This is an area where Democrats and Republicans should always be working together."
But Obama has known since he took office that the massive expansion of the scope of veterans care proposed by his administration would put greater demands on the department. As he put it Wednesday:
"We made VA benefits available to more than 2 million veterans who did not have it before -- delivering disability pay to more Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange; making it easier for veterans with post-traumatic stress and mental health issues and traumatic brain injury to get treatment; and improving care for women veterans. Because of these steps and the influx of new veterans requiring services added in many cases to wait times, we launched an all-out war on the disability claims backlog. And in just the past year alone, we've slashed that backlog by half."
But neither he nor Shinseki have exercised adequate oversight on an agency that has been hit by one scandal after another since the Washington Examiner revealed in August 2012 that $50,000 in taxpayer money was spent to produce the "Patton" parody that came to define the lavish spending at two VA training conferences in Orlando. Those conferences cost taxpayers about $6.1 million, of which as much as $762,000 was squandered on useless baubles like tote bags, pedometers and unnecessary travel, the VA inspector general later found.
Obama's 20-minute appearance Wednesday was the first time in quite a while that he's publicly addressed the VA scandal, save for a single answer to a reporter's question at a news conference in Manila last month. And he spent most of that time extolling his administration's efforts to improve care for veterans and praising Shinseki, giving only vague promises of accountability once he figures out exactly what's wrong.
Here's what's wrong: The buck never stops with Obama but the credit always does.