Hagel: VA backlog, ‘we missed it’
May 11th, 2014
01:05 PM ET
7 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. tomasz

    maybe he should have watched the daily show he would have known at least 2 years ago

    May 11, 2014 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  2. Wallaceboy

    Fred Hayes is on target. Barry hates the military and had the choices on the budget. He choose to cut where it would hurt the most and hurt in a visible way so he could blame the GOP. This happened on his watch. Remember when Bush stood up for "Brownie" with FEMA? Where is the outcry from the press on this one. It is sad to read some of these remarks and see how some people blame the GOP at any cost. Pure hate and envy. We are six years into Barry and he and his supporters are still blaming someone else. Barry and you on the left: take responsibility and assume accountability for what happens on your watch.

    May 11, 2014 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  3. 2_indy1600

    Just one word of advice for the most incompetent team in the White House in history: Accountability.

    May 11, 2014 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  4. Stewart

    Hagel is just a waste of a good suit. He needs to go.

    May 11, 2014 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  5. Chris Asking Question

    Who will be held accountable? Something Hagel and others have "missed" for years? How about something he, President Obama, and other politicians have "ignored" for years?

    May 11, 2014 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  6. Ed

    Based on Federal Regulations and a recent decision by the Board of Veterans Appeals dated April 4th, , there is an immediate solution to the backlog issue. .

    It's called "Fee Basis" and can be implemented by the Secretary.

    May 11, 2014 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  7. 2_indy1600

    A Bill Clinton appointment from Hawaii...two-fer for the day, and there goes my crush on Chuck. Never thought he would lie about something as gross as this. "We missed it," won't pass the smell test anywhere.

    May 11, 2014 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  8. ron denis

    what does shinseki have on everybody? who is this guy? some BIG money must be backing him cause if he was a COACH he would have been fired already

    May 11, 2014 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  9. BobInIrvine

    For all the maroons attempting to tie this to Obama, let me remind you of the Walter Reed scandal: "Several cases of patient neglect and shoddy living conditions were reported as early as 2004. Significant public and media attention was generated, which in turn prompted a number of congressional and executive actions, including resignations of several high-ranking officers."

    May 11, 2014 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  10. Robert

    The Veterans administration has been a mess for decades
    Not just months
    And of course there are those who blame Shensiki and want his head to roll, there are even those who blame The President, as predictable as that is.
    How about blaming the managers and supervisors who have been in their roles for years and years and have done nothing to fix the problems, and in some parts have created the problems.
    How about getting rid of them, and stop the partisan politics.
    I have listened over the last few days to politicians rail against the administration.
    My question is this.
    You have constituents whom I am sure have written to you, complained to you over the years about the VA medical system.
    Where have your voices been for, lets just say the last 12 years?
    Why have you not been outraged before now, and why have you let the problem continue, knowing it existed?

    May 11, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  11. 1alien1

    why is everything politics? why not just plain old incompetance? you would think the republicans and dems would understand the people are sick of this nonsense. i do not remember a more hated group than our congress

    May 11, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  12. Joan Nilson

    THe problem is one of volume: there is too much need for the number of doctors in the VA system!

    You are ALWAYS going to have a backlog, if the number of doctors in VA network of doctors remains at what it currently is. Plus, you've got older Vets who need specialists such as oncologists, cardiologists and neurologists, and then younger Vets who need specialists (including psychiatrists) to deal with post-traumatic stress and trauma recovery.

    I know that VA doesn't want to think about this: but what about hiring additional docs for each VA hospital – BASED ON SPECIFIC NEEDS (meaning type of specialist) – and have them as additional docs who follow VA processes, etc. These docs could be paid based on paying off any medical school loans, etc. Each VA Hospital should have a list of docs who can be brought in to avoid delayed care.

    Without flexibility in approach the VA is just going to continue this mess. They have to realize that they are in a perfect storm of too many older Vets from WWII and Viet Nam, and way too many younger Vets because of ill thought-out wars in Iraq and over-stay in Afghanistan. It's been decades since the VA has faced this type of situation, and they just have not kept pace with the number/type of docs needed for their actual patient population.

    May 11, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  13. sbul

    Nowhere do I see any of these politicians and public servants (generals are public servants) call for more money for the VA so they can hire more doctors and other medical personnel to see these veterans. There is a reason the VA is overwhelmed and that is the politicians increased funding for war and did not to the VA which then had an influx of veterans with serious problems. Let's see these Witch Hunt Politicos start calling for more money for the VA . Like that will happen.

    May 11, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  14. wiillll

    Has Shenseki said three words since taking over the VA. We've been at war for 13 years, you would think the VA secretary would be one of the most vocal leaders.

    May 11, 2014 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  15. Arnie

    Wound and maim more than you kill. It's been the Al Quaeda objective all along with its avowed and declared war upon the United States. Osama Bin Laden knowing full well the crush of the returning wounded and maimed couldn't or wouldn't be cared for by the V.A.

    "Didn't see this coming." "We missed it." Hogwash.

    May 11, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  16. 100% DAV Ret Vet

    Heck, when Dr Robert Petzel left VISN-23 for Washington, D.C., not fully knowing which "Position" he was to have literally squashed five (5) Office of Inspector General (OIG) to have the appearance of a "clean house" to ensure Dr Petzel would get the job, now as the Under Secretary for Health. Dr Petzel is the one who literally turned down $2 million plus for prosthesis which range for items for chronic pain to various limbs, and wheelchairs as well.
    Having been to the VAMC Charleston, SC; to VAMC San Diego, Ca; VAMC Long Beach, Ca; VAMC Reno, Nv; on to VAMC Hot Springs, SD/ VAMC Fort Meade, SD the 14 day wait to see one Primary Care Physician is a laugh at all of them. Some have had medical personal that do not have a medical license or lapsed one as well! I did call the medical authorities in those respective states and many did get fired MD's, all the way down to various radiology technicians.
    The VAMC Black Hills Health Care System (BHHCS) have stood up a "Multidisciplinary Pain Treatment Team Clinic" yes it is before the mandatory Sept 2014 deadline; however the ones who worked for this MD literally quite for their effective date was the same. As this "Chronic Pain MD" refused to listen to patients for suggestions, his staff, and others; hence they quite.
    He is very passive, as with the current Director and Chief Medical Officer and other "Staff for BHHCS" and WILL not seek or make the "squeaky wheel gets the grease" for the best treatment for his patients. This Dr. thinks Pain Treatment Team does not include the ........ PATIENT!

    Some VA places are good, but most truly are bad and all never make 14 days to see a PCP ever! A few times I have requested to see a specialist prior to the 30 days if the VAMC was not able to, which is always! Living in rural America it seems does not attract the number of qualified medical personal sadly, which increase cost of treatment due to the extra driving time, or not getting any treatment sadly. Even when we the vets know where to go and inform them but goes in one ear n out especially at the Director level everywhere. The VA here has posters for Tele-Health, yet very few doctors or others will use it! Again, taking away monies $$$ from the normal clinics.
    The VA Nationwide was supposed to have the Burn Pit Registry by Jan 1, 2014. The BHHCS has yet to have one established!
    Yes, I am lucky to be able to go out in town for some of my needs as I cannot have them met by the VA, such as trigger shots! Or, I need to see a specialist, due to being a month or more six (6) weeks is the normal around here it seems to see my PCP, I use my Tricare Medical Insurance to get to a specialist. I try to get it those acknowledge for the VA but not always able , again VA personnel not doing their jobs.
    The list can go on.

    May 11, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  17. Mike

    America..... The only country where it pays off more to sit at home and leach off the middle class tax payers than it does to defend your country.

    May 11, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  18. Fred

    No, you simply either didn't care, or were too foolish to see it. Ask ANY veteran that uses the VA, and they'll tell you how long it takes to get an appointment.
    Double shame on Congress, for being willing to throw men & women into battle, but unwilling to properly fund the VA when they come home!

    May 11, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  19. mnati

    If anyone is at fault it is congress for not making sure that the VA has all the funds needed for hospitals, clinics and good Doctors and Nurses and the best equipment needed to take care of every vet.in a very timely manor This should be there number ONE priority!!!! It should come before there pay and there staffs pay. Why should a vet wait a year for doctor appointment this is insane..

    May 11, 2014 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  20. Jeff

    Unfortunately the issue really is nobody in Government is ever held responsible for anything that they do, or fail to do.

    It is not an issue of how much money is thrown at a problem if the fools spending the money are just wasting it.

    Responsibility is essential. I am a retired, disabled veteran and know what a poor job the VA does–I have never been able to get an appointment in less than three months from the day I go into the clinic. I sure hope the ACA can do better than the VA.

    May 11, 2014 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  21. Rozznitz

    Really Paul??? Troll. This backlog and assault on the system comes from a war Bush financed through China and decided to fight on two fronts. You sir, should get better facts. Its always this way when you pull troops out – WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm...............shut up unless you served your country like I did. You have no opinion if you are an armchair warrior.

    May 11, 2014 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  22. sailbyme

    It's beyond disgraceful. "We missed it?" We turned a blind eye is more like it.

    May 11, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  23. Robert

    george kamburoff

    The Hateful conservatives blah blah blah
    Why am I not surprised?

    Because you are challenged upstairs.

    May 11, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  24. Liberal Bob

    The Government proves again that it knows how to run a healthcare program! This never would have happen if Dick Cheney would have not spent all of our nations money on his new heart.

    May 11, 2014 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  25. ermentrude

    I was a patient at the Phoenix VA hospital, and I volunteered there. They do not have enough doctors and money to meet the bureaucratically imposed conditions on treating the patients in a timely manner. It's that simple. Did bureaucrats do wrong, yes.

    May 11, 2014 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
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