State News

Obama defends handling of VA issues

Posted August 26, 2014

— His standing with veterans damaged by scandal, President Barack Obama on Tuesday defended his administration's response to Veterans Affairs lapses that delayed health care for thousands of former service members, but conceded more needed to be done to regain their trust.

His appearance also had deep political overtones in a state where the Democratic senator, Kay Hagan, is facing a difficult re-election and has sought to distance herself from Obama's policies, declaring as recently as Friday that his administration had not "done enough to earn the lasting trust of our veterans."

But Hagan and Republican Sen. Richard Burr were at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base to greet Obama. She welcomed him warmly, and the president gave her a peck on the cheek.

Obama and Hagan were both addressing the American Legion's National convention, with the president's address to the legionnaires the latest administration response to the health care uproar that led to the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in May.

Obama declared that the nation owes veterans for their service and that the lengthy wait times and attempts to hide scheduling flaws were "outrageous and inexcusable."

"We are very clear-eyed about the problems that are still there," Obama said. "And those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans and live up to our vision of a VA that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts veterans first. And I will not be satisfied until that happens."

Obama promised "a new culture of accountability" under new Secretary Bob McDonald. "Bob doesn't play," Obama said.

He announced steps to strengthen access to mental health care by members of the military, to improve the transition for those leaving the military from care administered by the Defense Department to that run by Veterans Affairs, and to foster suicide prevention and better treatments for post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Earlier this month, Obama signed a $16.3 billion law aimed at easing the long waits that tens of thousands of military veterans had endured to get medical care.

The law, a product of rare bipartisanship in the House and Senate, followed reports of veterans dying while awaiting appointments to see VA doctors and of a widespread practice of employees covering up months-long wait times for appointments. In some cases, employees received bonuses based on falsified records.

The VA says investigators have found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a VA hospital in Phoenix.

Many legionnaires attending the convention remain skeptical about whether the president's words will become transformative actions, as evidenced by the tepid applause his remarks received.

"I have a friend that has been waiting for about 12 years," said Carol Barker, District 14 commander for the American Legion. "They've come up with excuse after excuse."

Frank Stancil, adjutant of the American Legion Department of North Carolina, said he was willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt.

"I've got renewed hope because he said it. I believe a person by their word. Proof in time," Stancil said.

Hagan said that the Obama administration needs to do more to regain the trust of veterans.

She announced Tuesday that the administration is moving forward on her request for temporary medical space at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center, which has some of the longest wait times nationwide for veterans seeking medical care. Two facilities – one in Jacksonville and one in Fayetteville – will provide primary and mental health care services, she said.

"These leases are just one symptom of a much larger problem and demonstrate the need for a complete change from the culture of delay and excuses at the VA," Hagan said in a statement.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis jumped on Obama's visit to criticize Hagan's efforts on behalf of veterans.

"Kay Hagan and President Obama have broken their promises to our veterans, allowing the issues plaguing the VA to get significantly worse under their watch," Tillis said in a statement.

Moving beyond the steps included in the law, Obama planned to take executive actions that do the following:

  • Automatically enroll military personnel who are receiving care for mental health conditions and are leaving the service in a program that transfers them to a new care team in the VA.
  • Undertake a study designed to detect whether people show signs of being vulnerable to suicide or post-traumatic stress syndrome.
  • Spends $34.4 million in a VA suicide prevention study and about $80 million on a program to treat diseases, including post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Obama also announced a partnership with lenders such as Wells Fargo Bank, CitiMortgage, Bank of America, Ocwen Loan Servicing and Quicken Loans to make it easier for active-duty service members to obtain mortgage interest rate reductions.


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  • European American Aug 27, 2014

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    Then why complain if you don't know what's there????

  • icdmbpppl Aug 27, 2014

    I do love the "shill" accusation :) Perhaps you could tell us where we could get paid for simply telling the truth...and why anyone would pay for what I'm quite willing to do for free?Grand Union Aug 27, 10:22 a.m.

    Truth? Don't make me laugh--since when are democrat talking points truth?

  • icdmbpppl Aug 27, 2014

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    The ACA will collapse on its own weight, while we are standing in line for healthcare. I'm sure you have no idea what is sitting on Harry Reid's desk any more than I know.

  • Grand Union Aug 27, 2014

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    OK firstly almost everyone pays taxes.......and most who do not pay FEDERAL taxes are the working poor (including many in our armed forces....)
    You may recall Mitt the Twit got shot down in flames for making a similar claim.

    The debt is mostly owed to ourselves (those bonds in your 401K) and to the FED. the rest is in a currency we control the value of and that cannot be foreclosed on. The debt to asset ratio is excellent by any home or company measurement.

    You know who has to really worried about the debt? The chinese. They are owed all this money which is only worth what the debtor says it is worth and there is no way they can foreclose on the debt.....

    The tea party GOP fixates on the debt because they are economic simpletons or at least their base voters are.......the mainstream GOP does not (hence Reagan and W massively increasing said debt) because if there is one thing they know about, its financial trickery.

  • European American Aug 27, 2014

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    And they should sit on the desk forever. 299 are Bills trying to cancel the Affordable Care Act. The GOP House has not passed a worthwhile Bill for the Senate to take a vote on.

  • Grand Union Aug 27, 2014

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    What do the right have against golf? Seems better to play the occaisional round of golf than sit around doing nothing for three times as long which is what W did.
    And isn't much of big business done on golf courses? Its not my game but it seems to me it would be a rather good way of pondering on a problem.......especially if you walk between holes.

  • heelhawk Aug 27, 2014

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    ha, ha, ha.... I see what you did again. It was so funny yesterday when you used the President's middle name, Rush style, and followed it with a lame golf joke. Glad that you resurrected it again today for anyone who may have missed it.

  • heelhawk Aug 27, 2014

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    I'm certain that you're wrong in terms of your assumption of my intentions, but I applaud your adherence to the GOD playbook. When faced with fact, deflect and blame someone else. How many bills did you say Boehner is sitting on? How many times was he quoted as saying the House has no plans of taking up legislation?

  • mike275132 Aug 27, 2014

    Barack Hussein Obama:

    "Don't Blame me , Blame the guy behind the Tree"

    It's never Barack Hussein Obama's responsibility or concern when things go wrong.

    After all he has only been training to be President for 5+ years now, on the golf course

    Oh, What's Obama's Tee time today ?

  • veryfrustrated1 Aug 27, 2014

    Federal debt now is almost $18,000,000,000,000.00 & every man, woman, & child in this country now owes more than $55k each. Only about 36% of Americans Actually Pay Taxes! With that said, those who do pay taxes must pay more than $152k each just to settle this current debt, if we stopped adding to it right now & did not pay any interest on the astronomical that is owed!!!! Is there no wonder that The Tea Party, which consists exclusively of TAXPAYERS, want smaller government and a cut in government spending?!!!!!!!!