Obama is “Madder than Hell” over VA Scandal
WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF DENIS McDONOUGH APPEARS ON FACE THE NATION – May 18, 2014
Bob Schieffer: Good morning again.
The scandal at the Veterans Administration hospitals may be even worse than we thought. The VA admits that 23 patients died at VA hospitals because of delayed treatment. But this morning the Dayton Daily News reports that since 2001 the agency has paid out 36.4 million dollars to settle claims of “delay in treatment,” The money was paid out either voluntarily or as part of a court action.
In a fairly contentious interview Friday with White House Correspondent Major Garrett, the president’s chief of staff Dennis McDonough sought to emphasize the positive.
Denis McDonough: ..the President is madder than hell, I’ve got the scars to prove it given, briefings that I’ve given the President and the conversations that he and Rick and I have had on these matters…but at the same time that we’re looking at accountability we want to continue to perform to provide our veterans the services that they have earned, 40 billion dollars and assistance for the GI bill,14 percent increase in, spending on the veterans’ health administration, 16 percent increase in the number of veterans getting care, through the veterans’ health administration. These are all the kinds of investments that the president believes strongly we have to make, that’s why he’s fought for them on the hill and he’ll continue to fight for them.
Major Garrett: The Washington Post described Secretary Shinseki’s performance yesterday before the Senate committee as “maddeningly passive,” was the President satisfied with the Veterans Secretary’s performance, not only in that testimony, but overall?
Denis McDonough: We don’t score testimony on Capitol Hill or otherwise, what we score is results as it relates to the services and the benefits that our vets have earned, and we’ve seen dramat-from this administration, historic increases in the budgets year on year…we have seen obviously the reports out of places like Phoenix and Fort Collins, and North Carolina and we’re going to get to the bottom of those things, fix them and ensure that they don’t happen again.
Major Garrett: Advocates in the veterans community raised red flags, said the system won’t be able to handle these people, the 14-day waiting list to get care, to get in won’t be realized, they warned you and others that you were setting unrealistically high expectations and now we have credible reports mentioned by members of the Senate and reported by this network of shadow lists being put together to create a phony impression of getting people in in 14 days when the reality is they weren’t getting in any close to 14 days-so, yes you may have set an Accountability standard and a goal, but now you have a bureaucracy that is running amuck and creating a fraudulent impression. How can the President be satisfied with that?
Denis McDonough: We’re-I did not leave you with any impression that the president was satisfied, in fact, the President’s demanding that we get to the bottom of the exact allegations that you’re talking about as it relates to, whether, veterans are getting the timely access to care that they have earned. That they deserve and that’s exactly what we’re digging into, we’ve, the president as soon as these reports surfaced, the president, asked that Sec-Secretary Shinseki report back to him immediately, on the kinds of accountability measures that he has in place and whether he needs additional accountability measures. We’ve now deployed additional staff over to the veterans administration to dig into this to find out if this is a series of isolated cases or whether this is a systemic issue that we need to address, with wholesale reform. We’re not going to stop Major, making this better until it in fact is better because that’s exactly what our veterans deserve.
Major Garrett: And is Eric Shinseki, the Veterans Administration Secretary the person to carry out this mission as he describes it for the remainder of this administration?
Denis McDonough: General Shinseki continues to work this every single day, you saw him up there, he testified for three hours yesterday, sat and listened to the veterans service organizations after he finished, went out after that and talked to the press again, and he will continue to work these issues until they’re fixed and the president will-
Major Garrett: ..with the full confidence of the President of the United States?
Denis McDonough: The President will continue to demand that he and all of us who work for him continue to fix these things until they are functioning the way that our veterans, believe they should and the way that, so that they get the, the services and the benefits that they have earned.
Major Garrett: Let me ask you about the President himself, you’ve described scars that you have from the President, from his anger based on briefings you’ve given him, well what has the public heard from the President? It’s been nearly three weeks since the President has commented on this publicly and I want to take that period of time, almost three weeks, nothing from the president publicly…Where’s the president been?
Denis McDonough: The president, the president has been, an active voice for increased resources and reform at the veterans administration since he joined the veterans committee in the Senate over, 7, 8, 9 years ago and he will continue to do that.
Major Garrett: But I’m talking about a specific issue?
Denis McDonough: and he will continue to go out and he will continue to talk, as he did in Asia, in response to questions and throughout the course of his administration, we’ll continue to fight for reform, continue our fight for performance and we’ll put his money-the money of the United States government-where his mouth is.
Major Garrett: So if the veteran in the country says where’s the president been, you would say he’s been playing the inside game?
Denis McDonough: I would tell that that veteran would know that the President has been fighting for increased resources for the Veterans Administration, the President has been out time and again fighting to make sure that not only those resources out there but that the country recognizes the sacrifices that those veterans have made, the President is continually out there talking about the challenges that are faced in this country by veterans suicide, by active duty..
Major Garrett: But he has, but he has not addressed this issue..
Denis McDonough: Un-untrue.
Major Garrett: I mean, in the firestorm that’s going on right now—
Denis McDonough: –as it relates to post-traumatic stress-as it relates to post-traumatic stress where he’s been out there time and again…we have worked to lower veterans unemployment by one point five percent, over the course of the last several years, and we’ll continue to make sure that there’s the kind of jobs available for vets. He has fought for that, he will continue to fight for that.
Major Garrett: Denis, can you understand how a veteran who may have been victimized by these waiting lists or be concerned that they might soon become victimized by this waiting list, might hear all your answers and say, yes, I understand the broad argument you’re making about things the president has done, but I need specific answers and specific outrage about this problem now?
Denis McDonough: The President, nobody is more outraged about this problem right now, Major, than the President of the United States. And he will continue to press as it relates to this question of timely access to care until it is fixed, that’s why we’ve invested additional billions of dollars in the Veterans Health Administration so that they can have timely access to good care. And, as it relates to these allegations, what we’re going to do is we’re going to get to the bottom of them, ensure we understand exactly what happened, and ensure that it never happens again.