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Six Years Later, Obama And Hagan Owe An Explanation To Veterans

- August 26, 2014

FOR SIX YEARS, OBAMA’S RHETORIC TO THE AMERICAN LEGION HASN’T MATCHED THE REALITY OF HIS PRESIDENCY

Barack Obama In 2008: “I Will Build A 21st Century VA.”(Senator Barack Obama, Remarks At The American Legion ConventionPhoenix, AZ 8/28/08)

  • As A Candidate For President, Obama Told The American Legion That Veterans “Shouldn’t Have To Fight To Get” To The “Front Of The Line” For Health Care. OBAMA: “Recovering troops should go to the front of the line and they shouldn’t have to fight to get there.” (Senator Barack Obama, Remarks At The American Legion Convention, Phoenix, AZ 8/28/08)

In 2011, President Obama Told The American Legion It Was “Unacceptable” That Veterans Are Not Receiving Prompt Care. OBAMA: “In recent months, we’ve heard new reports of some of our veterans not getting the prompt mental health care that they desperately need. And that, too, is unacceptable.” (President Obama, Remarks At The American Legion Convention , Minneapolis, MN 8/30/11)

  • Obama: “For Me And My Administration, Upholding That Trust Is Not Just A Matter Of Policy, It Is Not About Politics; It Is A Moral Obligation.” OBAMA:“Now, as today’s wars end, as our troops come home, we’re reminded once more of our responsibilities to all who have served. The bond between our forces and our citizens must be a sacred trust. And for me and my administration, upholding that trust is not just a matter of policy, it is not about politics; it is a moral obligation.” (President Obama, Remarks At The American Legion Convention , Minneapolis, MN 8/30/11)

Obama Also Claimed That His Administration Was “Making Dramatic Improvements To Veterans Care .” OBAMA: “With these historic investments, we’re making dramatic improvements to veterans’ health care. We’re improving VA facilities to better serve our women veterans. We’re expanding outreach and care for our rural veterans, like those that I met during my recent visit to Cannon Falls, including two proud Legionnaires — Tom Newman of Legion Post 620 in Hugo, and Joseph Kidd, Post 164 in Stewartville.” (President Obama, Remarks At The American Legion Convention , Minneapolis, MN 8/30/11)

  • Obama: “So The Bottom Line Is This-Your Claims Need To Be Processed Quickly And Accurately, The First Time. We’re Not Going To Rest Until We Get That Done. We Will Not Rest.” (President Obama, Remarks At The American Legion Convention , Minneapolis, MN 8/30/11)

Obama Even Praised Then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki

Obama: “At The Same Time, Our Outstanding VA Secretary, Ric Shinseki, Is Working Every Day To Build A 21st Century VA.” (President Obama, Remarks At The American Legion Convention , Minneapolis, MN 8/30/11)

JUST LIKE OBAMA, KAY HAGAN MADE THE SAME EMPTY PROMISES SIX YEARS AGO ABOUT FIXING THE VA AND PROVIDING SUPERIOR CARE FOR AMERICA’S VETERANS

As A Candidate In 2008, Kay Hagan “Promised To Work For A ‘World-Class’ System Of Health Care For Veterans. “Earlier in the day at VFW state headquarters in Raleigh, Hagan argued that she would be a stronger advocate for veterans and promised to work for a ‘world-class’ system of health care for veterans. Hagan — who campaigned with former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, a disabled Vietnam veteran — noted that she also came from a military family. Her father-in law is a retired two-star general; her husband is a Vietnam vet; and two nephews are in the service. Hagan’s message hit home with Willie Robertson of Clayton, a VFW post commander, who said the Veterans Administration had been chronically underfunded during the past eight years.” (Rob Christensen, “Hagan, Dole Weigh In For Military Vote,” The News & Observer, 9/13/08)

In 2008, Kay Hagan Said “Trying To Navigate The [VA] System Is One Of The Biggest Issues I Hear.” HAGAN: “And it’s a huge problem because trying to navigate the system is one of the biggest issues I hear and we really need to, one, to honor them for their service and make it a seamless transition from the time they get out to when they get their care and that’s one of the things that we’ve got to correct.” (Kay Hagan For Senate, “Keeping Our Promises To Our Veterans,” Uploaded 11/1/08)

BUT ON OBAMA AND HAGAN’S WATCH, THE VA HAS BEEN NOTHING SHORT OF A DISASTER FOR AMERICA’S HEROES

ABC News: “VA Audit Finds 100,000 Veterans Waiting for Health Care.” (Luis Martinez, “VA Audit Finds 100,000 Veterans Waiting For Health Care,”ABC News6/9/14)

VA Inspector General: “The Issue Of Manipulation Of Wait Lists Is Not New To VA.”“‘The issue of manipulation of wait lists is not new to VA,’ said Mr. Griffin. ‘And since 2005 the [inspector general] has issued 18 reports that identified at both the national and local level deficiencies in scheduling, resulting in lengthy wait times and in negative impact on patient care.’” (Ben Kinsling, “Nearly 60,000 Veterans Face Delays Receiving Health Care-VA Audit,”The Wall Street Journal, 6/9/14)

According To Whistleblower Reports, A VA Hospital In Phoenix “Developed A ‘Secret Waiting List’ To Hide Delays In Care.” “The Legion’s action on Monday followed multiple reports of preventable deaths and attempts to cover up treatment delays at VA health clinics. At least two whistleblowers have said a Phoenix VA hospital developed a ‘secret waiting list’ to hide delays, possibly affecting dozens of patients who died while waiting for care.” (Josh Hicks, “American Legion Calls For Resignation Of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki,” The Washington Post, 5/5/14)

  • The Disgraced Director Of The VA Facility In Phoenix Is Still On The VA’s Payroll. “More than two months after Sharon Helman was suspended as director of Phoenix’s VA Health Care System, she remains on the payroll collecting regular checks and benefits despite passage of a new federal statute targeting accountability in the Department of Veterans Affairs.” (Dennis Wagner, “McCain: Why Is Phoenix VA Boss Still Employed,” The Arizona Republic, 8/21/14)

USA Today Headline: “ VA Brass Knew Of False Data For 2 Years.” “ Department of Veterans Affairs administrators knew two years ago that employees throughout the Southwest were manipulating data on doctor appointments and failed to stop the practice despite a national directive, according to records obtained by The Arizona Republic through a Freedom of Information Act request.” (Dennis Wagner, “VA Brass Knew Of False Data For 2 Years,” USA Today6/22/14)

The VA Scheduling Scheme Wasn’t Just Isolated To Southwest-It Was “Common Nationwide.” “ But audit findings, based on a review of data from the second quarter of fiscal 2011, show the violations proliferated throughout the Southwest and were common nationwide.” (Dennis Wagner, “VA Brass Knew Of False Data For 2 Years,” USA Today,6/22/14)

Data Manipulation And Secret Waiting Lists Aren’t The Only Problems Facing Obama’s VA

The VA Hospital In Pittsburgh Knew For Over A Year It Had An Outbreak Of Legionnaires’ Disease, But Didn’t Warn Patients While Placing Blame On An “Old Water System.” “In January 2013, CBS News reported that a Veterans Affairs hospital in Pittsburgh knew for more than a year it had an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, but failed to warn patients. VA officials testified before Congress on February 5, 2013, blaming the facilities’ old water system for the outbreak.” (Jennifer Janisch, “VA Hospital Knew Human Error Caused Legionnaires’ Outbreak,” CBS News3/13/14)

  • Emails Show Employees At The Clinic Knew Human Error Was Responsible For The Outbreak. “Now, emails and internal memos obtained by CBS News indicate top employees at the Pittsburgh VA knew human error was behind the outbreak, and not an equipment failure as officials suggested to Congress.” (Jennifer Janisch, “VA Hospital Knew Human Error Caused Legionnaires’ Outbreak,” CBS News, 3/13/14)

At A VA Hospital In Memphis, “A Failure To Guard Against An Allergic Reaction, An Over-Medication Of Sedatives And Poor Monitoring Of High-Blood Pressure Led To The Deaths Of Three Patients.” “A failure to guard against an allergic reaction, an over-medication of sedatives and poor monitoring of high-blood pressure led to the deaths of three patients last year at a VA hospital in Memphis, Tenn., according to inspector general report issued Wednesday.” (Gregg Zoroya, “IG: 3 Deaths At A VA Medical Center Linked To Poor Care,” USA Today, 10/24/13)

Unread X-Rays Going As Far Back As 2009 Were Discovered At An Alabama VA Hospital. “After discovering more than 900 unread veteran X-rays going as far back as 2009, the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System is conducting clinical reviews of the exams and reaching out to veterans who may have been harmed as a result of delayed care, according to a statement from the VA Southeast Network in Atlanta.” (Kala Kachmar, “VA Assessing Effects Of Delayed X-Ray Readings,” The Montgomery Advisor7/16/14)

  • As Many As 272 Patients Required Further Attention They Never Received As A Result Of VA Staff Ignoring X-Rays. “ Last week, the Montgomery Advertiser obtained a CAVHCS Veterans Health Administration Issue Brief detailing how the X-rays-some of which showed malignancies and abnormalities-were discovered. There were about 272 patients that the X-rays showed had problems requiring medical attention, but no further details are available.” (Kala Kachmar, “VA Assessing Effects Of Delayed X-Ray Readings,” The Montgomery Advisor 7/16/14)

WHILE VETERANS SUFFERED AT THE HANDS OF THE VA, THE DEPARTMENT CONTINUED TO PAY OUT MASSIVE BONUSES

VA Paid Approximately $10 Million In Bonuses To Employees While Patients Suffered.“Newly released records show the Phoenix VA Health Care System paid out roughly $10 million in bonuses during the past three years, when some staff manipulated patient wait-time records to trigger bonuses as veterans died awaiting care.” (Craig Harris And Rob O’Dell, “Phoenix VA Gave Out $10 Mil In Bonuses In Past Three Years,” The Arizona Republic, 6/16/14)

As Many As 13,000 VA Support Staff May Have Been Overpaid For As Long As 14 Years. “The jobs of some 13,000 VA support staff have been flagged by auditors as potentially misclassified, in many cases resulting in inflated salaries that have gone uncorrected for as long as 14 years.” (David Wood, “Scandal-Plagued VA Is Overpaying Workers By Millions Of Dollars, Internal Audit Finds,” The Huffington Post, 7/10/14)

VA Officials Also Misled Congress About The Depth Of The Department’s Problems

Even After The Scandal Broke, Officials Allegedly Provided False And Misleading Information To Congress About The VA’s Scheduling Practices. “The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is accusing the VA of ‘what appears to be an attempt to mislead Congress and the public’ by manipulating the number of veterans who died as a result of delays in care. In a letter to the VA secretary, Chairman Jeff Miller says the VA gave questionable information on a fact sheet distributed during a briefing to his committee in April and has consistently repeated that information in congressional testimony and to journalists.” (Nelli Black And Curt Devine, “VA Mislead On Number Of Deaths Tied To Care Delays, Congressman Charges,” CNN, 8/5/14)

  • “Even Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki Repeated The Questionable Information During A News Briefing On Capitol Hill.” (Nelli Black And Curt Devine, “VA Mislead On Number Of Deaths Tied To Care Delays, Congressman Charges,” CNN, 8/5/14)

Facilities In North Carolina Haven’t Been Immune To The Crises That Have Rocked Obama’s VA

Veterans Seeking Treatment At The Fayetteville VA Facility Face The Longest Wait Times In The Country. “Patients at Fayetteville’s VA Medical Center have the longest wait times in the country, according to a nationwide audit released Monday. Patients wait an average of 29 days for a primary care appointment at the medical center on Ramsey Street, the audit found. New patients wait an average of 83 days.” (Drew Brooks, “Patients At Fayetteville VA Medical Center Have Longest Wait Times In The Country, Audit Says,”The Fayetteville Observer6/9/14)

  • “In Fayetteville, More Than 8,000 Patients Could Not Be Seen Within A 30-Day Window.” “A higher percentage of patients at the Fayetteville Veterans Affairs hospital waited more than 30 days for an appointment than at any other VA hospital in the nation. In Fayetteville, more than 8,000 patients could not be seen within a 30-day window, or 17 percent of total appointments scheduled. That’s 6 percentage points higher than any other VA hospital and more than four times the national average of 4 percent.” (Jason deBruyn, “Durham, Fayetteville VA Hospitals Have Worst Wait Times In U.S.,” Triangle Business Journal, 6/9/14)

According To Veterans Who Visit The Fayetteville VA, Long Waits At The Facility Are Commonplace. “Long waits at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center are a concern but not news to many of the veterans who get care there.” (Drew Brooks, “Veterans In Fayetteville, Region Say They Can Attest To VA Health Care Delays,”The Fayetteville Observer, 6/10/14)

OBAMA’S RESPONSE TO THE VA SCANDAL HAS BEEN WIDELY PANNED

The New York Times Editorial: “The Buck Stops” With Obama. “Nevertheless, the buck stops with Mr. Obama, who pledged to build a ’21st-century V.A.’ The White House says that while participation in the veterans’ health system has jumped 16 percent since 2008, the huge backlog of cases has, in fact, been reduced. Even so, Mr. Obama’s Republican adversaries now have fresh ammunition to use in questioning his management skills, and even some Democrats, such as Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat of Connecticut, have declared themselves ‘fed up and impatient.’” (Editorial, “Troubles With Veterans’ Health Care,” The New York Times, 5/21/14)

  • “[E]xpressing Outrage Is Hardly Enough For A President Who, As A Candidate In 2008, Criticized The Agency And Vowed To Improve Care And Address Backlogs.” (Editorial, “Troubles With Veterans’ Health Care,” The New York Times, 5/21/14)
  • “It Is Past Time For A More Visible Personal Commitment To Right These Wrongs…” “It is past time for a more visible personal commitment to right these wrongs as well as strong White House support for legislation that would make it possible for top agency officials to fire those responsible for wrongdoing.” (Editorial, “Troubles With Veterans’ Health Care,” The New York Times, 5/21/14)

Time’s Joe Klein: Obama Has Been “Sadly Ineffective On The Veterans-Health Issue.”“The President cares deeply about the troops; he visits the wounded in the hospitals all the time; it’s just not his style to make a public deal of it. But he has been sadly ineffective on the veterans-health issue.” (Joe Klein, “VA Chief Eric Shinseki (Still) Must Go,” Time, 5/21/14)

National Journal‘s Ron Fournier: Obama’s Response To The VA Scandal Is “Pathetic” And Shows How “He Didn’t Govern.” RON FOURNIER: “That is their view and it’s pathetic. The President came into office knowing that this was a systemic problem.” KING: “He campaigned on this in 2008 and the Bush Administration, and the problems were there in the Bush Administration, but they warned him during the transition. They said here’s a problem, we’re passing on to you.” FOURNIER: “And he knew it was going to get much worse because he was winding down the wars, as he promised to do. And he knew this had to be radical overhaul, not around the edges. And what did he do like he’s done with a lot of other things? He didn’t pay attention. He didn’t govern. And now he’s holding nobody accountable.”(CNN‘s “New Day,” 5/22/14)


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