Topics: Veterans Affairs

White House offers answer from news conference to show Obama's concern about Veterans Affairs scandal

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,White House,Barack Obama,Veterans Affairs,Charles Hoskinson

White House officials pushed back Wednesday against my post noting that President Obama doesn't talk about the growing scandal over medical care for the nation's veterans, pointing out that Obama did talk about it once recently, on April 28, in response to a reporter's question at a news conference -- in the Philippines.

Here's what Obama said:

The moment we heard about the allegations around these 40 individuals who had died in Phoenix, I immediately ordered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Gen. [Eric] Shinseki, to investigate. We also have an IG investigation taking place. And so we take the allegations very seriously.

That is consistent with what has been my rock-solid commitment to make sure that our veterans are cared for. I believe that if somebody has served our nation then they have to get the benefits and services that they have earned. And my budgets have consistently reflected that. That's why we’ve resourced the Veterans Affairs office more in terms of increases than any other department or agency in my government.

That doesn’t mean, though, that some folks may still not be getting the help that they need. And we're going to find out if, in fact, that's the case, and I'm interested in working with everybody, whether it's our outstanding veteran service organizations or Congress, to make sure that there is not a single veteran in the United States who needs help -- whether because they’re homeless, because they’re sick, because they’re looking for a job. I want to make sure that they are getting the help that they need.

But that comment doesn't answer the question I raised, which has also been raised by House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and many other Americans: Why isn't Obama personally taking charge of this problem?

And the basic point of my post remains: He's certainly not shy like that when it's an issue he cares about, such as raising the minimum wage, for example.

On April 30 -- two days after his Manila news conference -- Obama held a White House event to complain about Congress rejecting a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour, then later issued a statement congratulating Hawaii for raising its state minimum wage to that amount. Since the beginning of the year, Obama has devoted six of his weekly addresses entirely to that topic -- on April 26, March 8, 22 and 29 and Feb. 15 and 22 -- and that's not counting the times he mentioned the issue when talking about broader subjects, such as the economy.

Obama has been even more vocal about the military's problem with sexual assault -- so much, in fact, that comments he made a year ago had to be disavowed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to help prevent them from interfering with prosecutions of accused offenders.

Meanwhile, there have been plenty of other issues that have merited his personal attention.

Since May 5, when the American Legion, the nation's largest veterans' group, called for Shinseki's resignation, Obama has found the time to issue statements marking the death of Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, celebrating the retirement of former acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox and recognizing National Small Business Week, but has not personally responded to the Legion's call.

I could come up with many more similar examples of how the president uses his time. But splitting hairs and arguing semantics won't keep veterans from dying because of incompetent care.

Only action will do that.

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