(CNN) - As the country remembers service members who lost their lives this Memorial Day, the Veterans Affairs Department continues to face questions about hospitals where veterans died waiting for doctor’s appointments on long, secretive waiting lists.
If you are participating in your local parade, spending extra time with your loved ones or sleeping in, we’ll get you up to speed on the latest in Washington with this comprehensive roundup of all things political.
VA under fire: Wes Moore, author, combat veteran and producer of “Coming Back with Wes Moore,” said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Memorial Day is not an excuse to barbecue or the unofficial start of summer, but is “the loneliest” day of the year for vets who remember the friends who didn’t make it home or struggle to adjust to civilian life.
Meanwhile Washington politicians continue to express outrage over the Veterans Affairs scandal in which 40 people died while waiting for care at one VA facility in Phoenix.
While the agency’s inspector general has launched an investigation into 26 facilities across the country and one of President Barack Obama’s top advisers has gone to Phoenix to investigate, Congress has turned the scandal into a debate over the role of the department. Republicans say its proof that the VA needs to be reformed, and Democrats defend the VA’s role.
Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that the VA, which has received more funding over the past decade, is mismanaged.
“We have got to move away from a World War II concept into the 21st century,” Miller said, adding that he doesn’t want to “tear the VA system down” but allow vets to see doctors in the private sector. He welcomed the Veterans Affairs Department's announcement Saturday that vets could seek non-VA care.
"What took so long?" Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said, also welcoming the President’s decision. “This is not a new issue in terms of the backlog,” he said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the “unacceptable” waiting lists are proof that the VA is under-resourced and unable to provide adequate care for an additional 2 million veterans entering the system after more than a decade of fighting two wars.
Sanders said the VA needs to say, “‘We don't have the resources,’ and if you want people in 14 days, we're going to need more doctors, we're going to need more nurses, we're going to need more staffing.” He added that the care that vets do receive is “good to excellent.”
Criminal charges? A Democratic senator, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that inspector general investigations are inadequate, and he called on the Department of Justice to get involved.
“We're talking now about evidence, credible and specific evidence, of criminal wrongdoing across the country,” he said.
Immediate action: On “Face the Nation,” Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, said “the President has waited way too long to get into this.” Obama addressed the scandal for the first time last week in a news conference.
Derek Bennett with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said he had hoped for more from the President.
“At some point, we have to stop studying and actually start action,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should be held accountable if allegations of cover-ups and secretive waiting lists are proven true.
“At some point the chief executive, the chairman, whoever it is, has to take responsibility for the entire organization and his performance,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
The latest mass shooting: The tragic mass shooting near Santa Barbara, California, that left seven dead, including the gunman, and 13 injured brought the issues of gun control and mental health care back into national focus.
Blumenthal said he hoped the tragedy “will provide a opportunity to bring back measures that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who are severely troubled or deranged like this young man was, and provide resources.”
Previous efforts at gun control after other mass shootings, including the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, failed to pass Congress.
Blumenthal also called for the passage bills that focus on mental health, something that Thune said Republicans could support.
Lawmakers can “ensure that we have policies in place that allow people with mental health issues like these to be diagnosed and to be treated.” Thune said.
Thune did not mention guns, indicating that Republicans have little appetite to bring up gun control legislation.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said that someone had contacted the Santa Barbara mental health department about shooter Elliot Rodger in April, but it was determined that he wasn’t a danger to himself or others.
But Brown said on “State of the Union” that “there's a general lack of resources in community mental health treatment generally.”
“And there's also probably a lack of notification by health care professionals in instances where people are expressing suicidal, or in certain cases homicidal, thoughts or tendencies. And it's a delicate question. And it's a delicate balance,” Brown said.
Inside Rodger's car police found three handguns - all legally purchased - and more than 400 rounds of unused ammunition.
Rodger passed the background check needed to buy the firearm used in the shooting, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told CNN. The official said nothing had been found in the gun trace to indicate Rodger should have been disqualified.
Ukrainian elections: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, is in Kiev, Ukraine, where billionaire Petro Poroshenko declared victory Sunday in national elections for the country's next President.
She said turnout was high in the capital and throughout the country except in Donetsk and Lugansk, where pro-Russian separatists are creating a dangerous situation.
“And I just want to make clear there is one person to blame for that security situation, and that is (Russian President) Vladimir Putin,” Ayotte said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Chinese theft of intellectual property: After the United States charged five Chinese military officers of stealing trade secrets from American companies, former Ambassador to China and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said the charges are “symbolic.”
The gesture “probably will cost us a whole lot more than it's costing them,” Huntsman said, as China is likely to retaliate to the charges in some way. “For every action, there's a reaction, and I fully expect that there will be a reaction by the Chinese to what we have done.”
But Huntsman also noted that the theft of intellectual property, most of it by China, costs the U.S. $300 billion per year.
Football: The controversial name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins reached a new level in politics this week when 50 Democratic senators signed a letter to the NFL, urging officials to force the team to change its name.
ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth said on “This Week” that “there’s no question” that it’s “time to change the name.”
“It’s a pejorative term,” Schlereth said.