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Yes Hillary, The VA Problems Are Real And "Widespread"

- October 29, 2015

As Clinton Continues To Downplay The Scandal Plaguing Our Nation's Veterans, Obama, Prominent Democrats, And VA Officials All Agree That "The VA Is In Crisis"

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TOP TAKEAWAYS

  • Last week, Clinton downplayed the VA's problems, insisting they are "not been as widespread as it has been made out to be," then proceeded to attack Republicans for berating the VA in pursuit of an "ideological agenda."
  • Pressed on her comments, Clinton has dodged and through a spokesman, refused to apologize.
  • But Clinton's comments fly in the face of President Obama, VA Secretary Robert McDonald, and many leading Democrats have been saying for over a year: "The VA is in a crisis."

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Last Night, Clinton Dodged Questions On Whether She Stood By Her Comments In Which She Downplayed The Scandal Plaguing The VA. QUESTION: "So this week, taking a lot of criticism about some recent comments you made about the VA, saying the scandal was overblown and that the problems aren't as widespread as people would have you believe. Do you stand by these comments? CLINTON: "You know, I share the outrage that everybody felt when the scandal was finally discovered and people began to address it. There were clearly systemic problems and those problems must be dealt with, I've already been talking about what I would do. But I am worried about some people trying to use the fact that we need to make major reforms as a justification for dismantling the VA and I think my comments were really more directed at that. I want us to fix what's wrong, I want us to make sure that anyone who's ever served our country, no matter what age, no matter when they served, gets whatever medical support that they need and I support the program that was passed to provide the opportunity if you can't get the services that you need in your VA to be able to go out and get those services in the community. But from all of my work on behalf of veterans, there's a lot about the VA that's right, a lot that works. So let's focus on what's wrong and fix it and not let anybody use that as an excuse, because there are things that have to be fixed, to try to dismantle the VA." (WMUR Interview With Hillary Clinton, 10/28/15)

  • Clinton: "There's A Lot About The VA That's Right, A Lot That Works." CLINTON: "But from all of my work on behalf of veterans, there's a lot about the VA that's right, a lot that works. So let's focus on what's wrong and fix it and not let anybody use that as an excuse, because there are things that have to be fixed, to try to dismantle the VA." (WMUR Interview With Hillary Clinton, 10/28/15)

In An Interview Last Week, Clinton Said The VA Scandal Has "Not Been As Widespread As It Has Been Made Out To Be ." CLINTON: "Yeah, and I don't understand that. You know, I don't understand why we have such a problem, because there have been a number of surveys of veterans, and overall, veterans who do get treated are satisfied with their treatment. Now…" MADDOW: "Much more so than people in the regular system." CLINTON: "That's exactly right." MADDOW: "Yeah. Right." CLINTON: "Now, nobody would believe that from the coverage that you see, and the constant berating of the VA that comes from the Republicans, in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have." MADDOW: "But in part because there has been real scandal." CLINTON: "There has been. And - but it's not been as widespread as it has been made out to be." (MSNBC's " The Rachel Maddow Show," 10/23/15)

  • Clinton Accused Republicans Of "Constant Berating Of The V.A. That Comes From The Republicans, In Part In Pursuit Of This Ideological Agenda…" CLINTON: "Now, nobody would believe that from the coverage that you see, and the constant berating of the V.A. that comes from the Republicans, in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have." (MSNBC's " The Rachel Maddow Show," 10/23/15)

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Through A Spokesman, Clinton Refused To Apologize For Her Remarks. "'Republicans are trying to suggest the only solution to the VA's problems is to privatize it, but Hillary Clinton will not apologize for insisting on doing the hard work to reform the VA, rather than ending it altogether,' [Clinton campaign Press Secretary Brian] Fallon said." (Ben Kelsing, "Republicans Take Aim at Hillary Clinton For VA Remarks,"The Wall Street Journal, 10/28/15)

OBAMA AND VA SECRETARY MCDONALD BOTH AGREE: "THE VA IS IN CRISIS"

During His July 2014 Confirmation Hearings, VA Secretary Robert McDonald Acknowledged "The Depth Of The Crisis At The Department Of Veterans Affairs," And "Systemic Failures." MCDONALD: "As I have met with members of this Committee over the past few weeks, you have told me the depth of the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs. While there is much that is going well, there have been systematic failures, which suggest that some in the organization have lost track of the Mission and the Core Values. The Department's problems with access, transparency, accountability, and integrity have been well documented by this Committee and your congressional colleagues, as well as by the President, Secretary Shinseki, Acting Secretary Gibson, the Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, the Office of Special Counsel, Veterans Service Organizations, and Military Service Organizations." (Committee On Veterans Affairs, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 7/22/14)

  • McDonald: " The Seriousness Of This Moment Demands Urgent Action." MCDONALD: "The seriousness of this moment demands urgent action, and if confirmed, I pledge to this Committee, and to our nation's veterans, to take a series of immediate actions over the first 90 days to deliver the needed reforms our veterans deserve. I will put the veteran at the center of all we do, consistent with our Mission." (Committee On Veterans Affairs, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 7/22/14)
  • McDonald: "The VA Is In Crisis." MCDONALD: "The Department has made great strides in serving veterans thanks to the commitment of many dedicated employees, and hard work with our partners and advocates in the community. But the VA is in crisis. The veterans are in need. There is much to do. I can think of no higher calling than to serve our veterans who have so selflessly served our country. With your support, I am confident we will succeed at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thank you. I look forward to your questions." (Committee On Veterans Affairs, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 7/22/14)

Eric Shinseki, McDonald's Predecessor, Called The Scandal "The Elephant In The Room," "Indefensible, And Unacceptable," And Said The Problems Were "Systemic." "Before I close, let me address the elephant in the room today. After Wednesday's release of an interim Inspector General report, we now know that VA has a systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity within some of our Veterans Health Administration facilities. That breach of trust involved the tracking of patient wait times for appointments. The initial findings of our ongoing internal review of other large VA healthcare facilities also show that to be true. That breach of integrity is irresponsible, it is indefensible, and unacceptable to me." (Eric Shinseki, Remarks At The National Coalition For Homeless Veterans," Washington, D.C., 5/30/14)

In May 2014, Obama Acknowledged That "The Misconduct Has Not Been Limited To A Few VA Facilities, But Many Across The Country. Totally Unacceptable." OBAMA: "Good morning, everybody. A few minutes ago Secretary Shinseki and Rob Nabors, who I've temporarily assigned to work with the VA, presented me with the department's initial review of VA facilities nationwide. And what they found is that the misconduct has not been limited to a few VA facilities, but many across the country. Totally unacceptable. Our veterans deserve the best. They've earned it. Last week I said that if we found misconduct, it would be punished, and I meant it." (President Obama, Remarks At The White House, Washington, DC, 5/30/14)

  • Obama Said "I Totally Agree" With A Review Of The VA That Found "Significant And Chronic Systemic Failures" And Said The Department Needed To Be "Restructured And Reformed." "More broadly, the review that Rob Nabors conducted of the VHA found -- and I'm quoting - 'significant and chronic systemic failures,' including too little responsiveness, transparency and accountability. And that is totally unacceptable. It recommends that the VHA be 'restructured and reformed' with stronger management, leadership and oversight, as well as more doctors and staff. And I totally agree, and we're going to make that happen." (President Obama, Remarks At The White House, Washington, DC, 6/30/14)

CLINTON'S OUTLANDISH COMMENTS ALSO PUT HER AT ODDS WITH PROMINENT DEMOCRAT LAWMAKERS WHO KNOW THE SCANDAL "IS DEADLY SERIOUS"

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) On The Concerns Coming Out Of The VA Scandal, May 2014: "You Have To Address Them; You Have To Correct Them; And You Have To Take Action, And Some Of That Action Might Be In The Courts." "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Thursday that allegations of cooked books at the Veterans Affairs Department could rise to the level of criminal misconduct. … 'None of us could be satisfied with how you could immediately address some of these concerns,' she said. "[But] you have to address them; you have to correct them; and you have to take action, and some of that action might be in the courts. 'This is deadly serious,' she added." (Mike Lillis, "Pelosi: VA Scandal 'Deadly Serious,'" The Hill, 5/22/14)

  • Pelosi: "This Is Deadly Serious." "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Thursday that allegations of cooked books at the Veterans Affairs Department could rise to the level of criminal misconduct. … 'None of us could be satisfied with how you could immediately address some of these concerns,' she said. "[But] you have to address them; you have to correct them; and you have to take action, and some of that action might be in the courts. 'This is deadly serious,' she added." (Mike Lillis, "Pelosi: VA Scandal 'Deadly Serious,'" The Hill, 5/22/14)

Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) On The VA Scandal, May 2014: "I Believe That The Department Of Justice Has To Be Involved." GARRETT: "You have said that the Justice Department must get involved. Why hasn't it? And are you, sir, outraged that the administration has yet to put Department of Justice investigators on this case?" BLUMENTHAL: "I believe that the Department of Justice has to be involved. I've urged Secretary Shinseki privately, and in fact publicly, to request and involved the Department of Justice. We're talking now about evidence -- credible and specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing across the country in more than 30 places." (CBS's "Face The Nation," 5/25/14)

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), May 2014: "The Responsible Persons Ought To Be Held Accountable, Removed From Service With Cause And That Anybody Involved In This Cover Up Should Be Either Disciplined Or Removed." "'Obviously there have been allegations that this was done consciously with intent to obfuscate and hide the facts of the backlog,' Hoyer, D-Md., said. 'If that was done, then the responsible persons ought to be held accountable, removed from service with cause and that anybody involved in this cover up should be either disciplined or removed.'" (John Parkinson, "Cantor 'Disturbed' By Obama's Response To VA Scandal," ABC News, 5/20/14)

Democrat Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) On The VA Scandal, May 2014: "I'm Just Appalled By It." DUCKWORTH: "Well, when I was serving at the agency, what happened was Sec. Shinseki helped put into place the new standard that veterans would not wait more than 14 days for an appointment. This was a new system with electronic record-keeping, and also the electronic scheduling system that was put into place. And so the new system was supposed to be one that was electronic - that would automatically send updates and then report as to how long patients were waiting for their appointments. And so this whole - people gaming the system to get around the system, especially at the expense of veterans - is absolutely news to me. And I'm just appalled by it." ("Congresswoman And Veteran 'Appalled' By VA Scandal," NPR, 5/22/14)

Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), June 2014: "It Has Become Clear That The VA Has Failed To Address Long Appointment Wait Times For Veterans, Instead Allowing A Culture Of Coverups To Take Hold." "'It has become clear that the VA has failed to address long appointment wait times for veterans, instead allowing a culture of coverups to take hold,' Feinstein said in a statement." (Richard Simon, "Feinstein Asks VA Chief To Review Wait Times At California Facilities," Los Angeles Times, 6/2/14)

Democrat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) On Clinton's Comments: "The Problems We've Seen At The Phoenix VA Are Devastating And Real. … The VA Scandal Has Nothing To Do With Partisan Politics And Everything To Do With Systemic Failure, Negligence And Lack Of Accountability." "Clinton contended in her MSNBC appearance that conservatives want to shut down the VA and replace it with a private-care system for veterans. She said the GOP exaggerated departmental flaws and failings 'in pursuit of this ideological agenda,' and have underfunded the VA because 'they want it to fail.' Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, an Arizona Democrat, disagreed. 'The problems we've seen at the Phoenix VA are devastating and real,' she said in a e-mailed statement. 'The VA scandal has nothing to do with partisan politics and everything to do with systemic failure, negligence and lack of accountability.'" (Dennis Wagner, "Hillary Clinton's Take On VA Crisis Spurs Backlash," Arizona Republic, 10/26/15)

In October 2015, Democrat Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) Called For An Overhaul Of The VA Choice Program. "The former chairwoman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee wants to overhaul the VA Choice program - the initiative that lets veterans see private physicians if they can't get an appointment at a VA medical center. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said veterans in her state continue to wait weeks or months for needed medical care, unable to make timely appointments at the VA or through the Choice program." (Patricia Kime, "Murray Calls For Overhaul Of Va Choice Program," Army Times, 10/23/15)

  • Murray: "I Hear Frequently From Veterans ... About How Difficult The Choice Program Has Been … I Hear How Frustrating Some Of The Bizarre Rules And Restrictions Are." "'I hear frequently from veterans ... about how difficult the Choice program has been,' Murray said. 'I hear how frustrating some of the bizarre rules and restrictions are - for example, an authorization for care only lasts 60 days. If you're a woman veteran and you're pregnant, you're going to need more than 60 days of care.'" (Patricia Kime, "Murray Calls For Overhaul Of Va Choice Program," Army Times, 10/23/15)

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