Hagel: VA backlog, ‘we missed it’
May 11th, 2014
01:05 PM ET
4 months ago

Hagel: VA backlog, ‘we missed it’

(CNN) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gave his support to embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Sunday as he has come under scrutiny over allegations of deadly delays in health care treatment for veterans.

While Hagel said accountability was paramount, the potential for a backlog treating returning veterans should have been seen.

“I don’t think it just started with General Shinseki’s term at the VA, this is something that should have been looked at years and years ago, so yes, we missed it,” Hagel said on ABC “This Week.”

Shinseki will testify next Thursday before the Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates also said Sunday more needs to be done immediately to make sure veterans are getting the help they need.

“We can't wait for a congressional investigation and findings and so on. This needs immediate action,” said Gates on CBS “Face the Nation.” “And I'm hopeful that Secretary Shinseki will take that action. And then, as I said, hold people accountable.”

CNN obtained an e-mail allegedly written by an employee at a Wyoming clinic of the Department of Veterans Affairs that said employees were told to "game the system” because it made their clinic look good.

“If this, in fact, or any variation of this occurred, all the way along the chain, accountability is going to have to be upheld here because we can never let this kind of outrage, if all of this is true, stand in this country,” Hagel said.

Members of Congress are divided on whether this situation calls for Shinseki to step down from his leadership post.

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says Shinseki has had five years to fix this problem and, if he is unable handle the leadership role, it may be time to find someone who can.

“If Mr. Shinseki can't come here and tell Congress how exactly he's going to change that culture there, I think we need to find somebody who's willing to go in and shake up the Veteran's Affairs so that their number one, two and third priority is taking care of the men and women who serve this country,” Rogers said on CBS “Face the Nation.”

Shinseki told the Wall Street Journal last week that he would not resign over the allegations.

"I serve at the pleasure of the president," Shinseki told the newspaper when asked whether he would step down. "I signed on to make some changes. I have work to do."


Filed under: Chuck Hagel • Veterans Affairs
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Idontthinkso2

    How could you "miss it"? Everyone has been telling you how bad the VA is for years.

    May 11, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  2. BlanketJackson

    Come on, Hagel. You were in the Nam. You bled. You know the veterans. Stand up for us.

    May 11, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  3. Dr. Hemlock

    Nobody believes you Mr. Hagel. The V.A. issues have been the same and ignored since Viet Nam. The higher up in D.C. are faking concern now to save their own sorry skins.

    May 11, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. David L Godby

    Anyone ever appointed to a position by Obama has been incompedent. He needs to go & someone with a brain needs to appoint his replacement.

    May 11, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  5. Bill from GA

    " Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says Shinseki has had five years to fix this problem "

    So Rogers acknowledges that the problem is long-standing. It only becomes an issue for Congress when it is in the Democrat's hands. Why didn't it need to be fixed when the Vets first started coming back from the recent wars. Or before that, because the VA has long been underfunded, providing inadequate service.

    When W started his needless and illegal war in Iraq, he failed to increase the funding necessary for the Veterans Administration to deal with the problems of his returning troops. Then, when the tea party nuts got influence in the repub-led House, across-the-board spending cuts further diminished the VA's ability to do its job.

    But let's just blame the Obama administration.

    May 11, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. RocketJL

    Poppycock. It doesn't matter how long it has been going on. The day you take the job, it is you responsibility to fix what is broke, don't let vets die This stuff about it being the last guys fault is for idiots and presidents.

    May 11, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. Andy sharp

    I'm at the Cleveland Wade Park VA facility on Friday the 9th of May, sitting in an overloaded waiting room when I hear over the P.A. System "for all in-patients, there will be a Cinco de Mayo party in the rec room from 2-5 pm" . I know that the VA is notoriously slow, but having a Cinco de Mayo party on THE 9TH OF MAY, well that kind says it all for the joke that is our illustrious Veterans Administration. If there are not indictments handed down in Phoenix for manslaughter, minimally, that will be a crime in itself.

    May 11, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  8. Larry L

    Here's a thought... The next time we hear a proposal for a new aircraft carrier, a new class of missile frigate, or a wing of super-stealth attack aircraft, let's just spend the money of veterans who have already served America. The next time we think we need to retain corporate subsidies, give away some foreign aid, or try to protect tax loopholes for the uber-rich, let's direct the funds towards the services we promised Veterans.

    May 11, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  9. Barberian

    First: Fire those responsible. Never let them work for the Federal Government again. If they committed a crime, try them in the courts. Allow them to be held accountable for civil rights violations.
    Second: Let the veterans seek medical care at civilian hospitals and with civilian doctors (including experts) at the same cost they would have incurred at a veterans hospital until the backlog is truly at an acceptable level < 14 days.
    Third: Never let this happen again

    May 11, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  10. Dismas

    WOW! What a load of crap. This situation isn't exactly new. It's been going on for decades. These idiots are deaf as stone when it comes to listening to their patients. They see them as active duty soldiers when they should be seeing them as Veterans. Just a little song and dance for the media then it will be business as usual.

    May 11, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  11. I told you so

    Shamefull

    May 11, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  12. TNPatriot

    Anybody that knows a veteran who has depended on the VA for care knows that this situation has been going on for at least 15-20 years or longer. It is obvious that the individual units have been using a long time tactic of cover up and deceit to keep the higher ups in Washington from learning the truth. But the bottom line here is that it is Congress that is to blame. We have long had a bunch of chicken-hawks in DC eager to put others children in harms way, but when it comes to treating those heroes for the injuries/illness' they develop in service to their country, they REFUSE to allocate the funds for proper treat them.
    When these soldiers sign up, we (the US) promise them that we will take care of them, but it is a LIE perpetrated by Congress. Rather than congress investigating the VA, they should be investigating themselves, or better yet, every member who has ever voted against required funding for the VA should immediately resign and face criminal charges.

    May 11, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  13. Jeff

    circle the wagons – this is a fiasco and appears to be a nationwide issue. Sorry Mr. Shinseki but all the credit you have been taking for vets getting timely care is a farce, you should now take the blame and you need to go find something else to do.

    May 11, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  14. Keith Long

    Yes, the backlog is a problem. I'm sure hiding the fact with secret lists and claiming there was no problem went a long way toward solving the problem.

    May 11, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  15. Enough is Enough

    Yea, you missed it. You also missed the deaths at the Pittsburgh VA hospital......it seems that you guys miss a lot of things.....does anyone in the administration know anything about anything before they read it in the paper? Do you EVER get embarrassed by your complete lack of awareness of what is happeneing below you? Be grateful that you are in "public service" because you would be fired in the real world.

    May 11, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  16. SFC(R) Rivera

    How about providing supporting documents to VA for a service connected compensation issue and getting denied, them you have to submit an appeal wait two freaking years and get a negative response from the VA at Roanoke VA??? I am pretty sure that I am not the only veteran going through this its ridiculous.

    May 11, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  17. gary

    Does anyone, I mean anyone, really believe that Shinseki didn't know about this? Really?

    May 11, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  18. cgahaw

    I have a high opinion of Shinseki since he told Rumsfeld to stuff it and was clear about the magnitude of resources needed for Iraq; however, after 5 years in this position, I am surprised he doesn't have a better command of his people and the continuing problems that the VA seems to have difficulty overcoming.

    May 11, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  19. John Mudd

    The plain and simple fact is that the AMERICAN PEOPLE couldn't care less about veterans, especially those from the Vietnam and later wars and this is not going to change.

    May 11, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  20. Richard

    The whole VA system is a slow, antiquated behemoth. The medical side is understaffed, wasteful, & at times incompetent. The benefits side is amazingly slow even for simple claims. My own personal experience has a 1 condition appeal in line for 2 years, with 2 more years expected before review. This is not how you take care of veterans.

    May 11, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  21. mykpfsu

    BS. He ignored it.

    May 11, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  22. Catherine

    These delays and the complaints about them have been ignored for many years. The only difference now is that it has garnered public attention. Without that the VA would have gladly continued these barbaric practices. Its disgusting the way that our government and businesses will not do the right thing without exposure and public outcry. And since no one is really made accountable, this practice of "doing wrong for as long as we can get away with it" will continue.

    May 11, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  23. Pete/Ark

    In November 1993 , the VA attempted to implement a Memorandum of Understanding with DoD to expedite the exchange and transfer of military medical records ... DoD has been the noncompliant party delaying the project through 3 administrations ... yep , they have missed something .

    May 11, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  24. Tom from Texas

    It seems to me that if the VA had any sort of contact wjth their patients before an after their
    use at their facilities they would have had to have known this. This tells me that no independent
    department at the VA checks on their performance with the patients they serve, but depends
    on their own internal checks and balances without ant verification. That would be like Walmart
    asking their managers if their customers love there store!

    May 11, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  25. Michael Golden

    Always been problems in the VA. This is nothing new and probably can't be fixed. Tried working there in the 90s but left after three years due to upper level obstructionism in the middle to upper level management. Still believe this is one of their big problems. That, and nobody ever gets fired or disciplined. Be as bad as you can be. The good employees end up lost in a wasteland of useless people who put their time in and retire and pollute the new hires on their way out. I was in a unique position and well paid at the GS 13 level. When the VA was downsizing back in the 90s I was having much of my workload given to people who were "reassigned." Left with a buyout and all I really wanted to do was help out our vets.

    May 11, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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