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

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“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. wotudezerv

    THIS IS AN OUTRAGE, A FORM OF TREASON AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED. what is the difference if you mistreat US Soldiers while they are on active duty or after? I consider this criminal action and believe that Shinseki should be drummed out and prosecuted. No on can tell me his office did not hear a rumor about this. they did. they did not 'miss it', they did not care when they heard about it enough to act responsibly. it cost us service people their lives. fine. you killed US service people, so, how is that no a terrorist act? from inside? that guy in texas used a gun to kill US service people. Shinseki and the doctors at the VA used apathy. try them. convict them. put them in a military prison. they deserve it.

    May 11, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  2. Fred

    If congress doesn't provide the funding required they can't play the agencies for not delivering. They were more than happy to borrow from China to bomb Iraq, but they are sure penny pinchers when it comes time to pay the butcher. Republican leadership sux and is criminal in it's neglect of veterans.

    May 11, 2014 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  3. Richard Right

    It's not our fault, its Bush's fault? Won't work. Been used as an excuse too many times. We're tired of it

    May 11, 2014 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  4. billy_bob

    Excuse me! How could you miss this! EVERYTHING the Government does is pathetic and slow. This was as obvious as it gets and you missed it. Next you'll be telling me that obamacare is going to be a GOOOD thing for this country! Hogwash!

    May 11, 2014 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  5. TasteyTreat

    The lack of leadership in this administration is really pathetic and it starts at the very top, of course. And Obama has proposed cutting the VA budget. For this, the buck obviously stops right at 1600 Penn. Avenue.

    May 11, 2014 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  6. Jenn

    The VA should have been shouting these numbers from the rooftops, emphasizing constantly that they need funding, space, doctors, nurses and counselors...not hiding them to "look good". The mess the VA is in is not the fault of the administrators, but our government. Had they published the correct numbers and continued to pound our leadership with the deplorable state the VA was in maybe something would have been done years ago. Instead our servicemen and women are added to the list of victims of politicians working towards personal power rather than representing the people.

    May 11, 2014 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  7. WJG

    Just another government department that does NOT do what it is chartered to do. I would like to know if there are ANY agencies of our government that do the job properly. ie; FDA, IRS, DEA, FBI, Congress, FCC, Medicare, GAO, Ethics, Energy, etc.

    May 11, 2014 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  8. Thomas

    The VA is so overwhelmed and under budget ,

    You shouldn't go to war , if you can't take care of your own Vets.

    Don't do the crime , if you can't to the time .

    May 12, 2014 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  9. Marie MD

    This backlog goes back to the 1960s. This is nothing new but government, rethugs in particular, don't think twice about sending our men and women to battle (including wars of lies) but desert them once they return home.
    Another group that should NOT vote teaklan but they continue to do so . . . . . military and veterans.

    May 12, 2014 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
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