Hagel: VA backlog, ‘we missed it’
May 11th, 2014
01:05 PM ET
6 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.

“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. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    WHY DONT THEY put the veterans in with the ACA or OBAMA CARE and ajust the budget to cover them that way so they can SEE ANY DOCTOR like the REST of us , UNLESS YOU LIVE in the south under A REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR?????????

    May 11, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. Hotdog

    This is not a political issue at the VA. Neither can you hold the administrator accountable for what has happen at the VA. It is the mid-level administrators that power grab and hold the employees below them to do their bidding. Then there is the Congress that continue to cut funding to the VA that prevents the VA from hiring the best doctors and equipment to provide the services to veterans. Finally, this shows the cost of going to war in the first place.

    May 11, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. Robert Schoales

    We missed it?? Oh, well that's all right then. Our soldiers are trained not to miss, but their bosses apparently have more important things on their minds. Like cocktail parties and schmoozing with pols and contractors. Nice.

    May 11, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  4. Robert

    How could you miss it Mr.Hagel? I have been a VA nurse for the past 20 yrs. I am also a combat wounded Vietnam Vet. VA employees have been screaming about this problem at the top of their lungs for years but no one has listened. Instead the VA has responded by telling us to do more with less. Instituting "lean" programs. Sending in headhunters to cut staffing and then when questioned about short staffing issues vehemently denying that there are any staffing issues. Many VA clinics actually have few if any full time doctors, They are running on skeleton crews like my clinic. Staff often work overtime without compensation and go prolonged periods under great stress without being able to take the leave time they have earned and are entitled too. And by the way. A large percentage of VA staff are vets themselves. The whole system is broken. The VA system was never intended to provide life ling health care to every person who ever served in the military. It was supposed to be for those who were made ill,injured or wounded in the line of duty. Instead we are now supposed to provide on demand service to anyone anywhere who ever served. We don't have the facilities, staff or budget to do it. It is not the fault of the VA employees. The fault lies directly with congress and a military that created too many entitlements. Until this is fixed the situation will continue. Top notch VA employees are leaving by the thousands because they can no longer cope and can make a better living in the private sector leaving a huge shortage of staff willing to put up with the abuse. Better wake up.

    May 11, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  5. JayDee

    Here we go again. The GOP who loves to praise our soldiers publicly while cutting funds for the VA and now will make speeches about lack of leadership.

    May 11, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @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."

    We have to thank, in part, Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, for bringing this situation to the public's attention. Our nation is at the forefront of technological development; surely, we can eliminate this backlog. Start by buying a lot of scanners and pay people to make all the paper records electronic (like private physicians have had to do).

    May 11, 2014 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  7. KG

    JayDee, Obama is the Commander in Chief of our armed forces. This is not a GOP issue, it is a lack of leadership by the person President Obama appointed to oversee the VA. Bush was not a good president and I find it amazing the people continue to make excuses for Obama. I suppose he just didn't realize that were any issues at the VA when, in fact, the GOP and Democrats in congress authorized billions of dollars to upgrade the VA's document management system. Oh, I guess it's the GOP's fault that the President let that money go to waste as well.

    May 11, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. mac101

    "...the potential for a backlog treating returning veterans should have been seen..."

    Is this clown for real? The Viet Nam Vets are aging like the rest of the Baby Boomers and we've had 13+ years of straight combat for our military.

    Even my dog could have predicted a backlog.

    May 11, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  9. Fred Hayes

    What a pant-load ! Sequester was Barracks idea. And it let him choose what to cut ! And he chose to cut anything having to do with the military – because he hates the military ! Hagel ordered the coverup !

    May 11, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  10. george kamburoff

    The Hateful conservatives sent our sons and daughters to become killers so our "pro-life" extremists could feel powerful. Now, they do not want to PAY for their disgusting Bush Wars and TORTURE, but are skipping out on helping their victims in the Services.

    Why am I not surprised?


    May 11, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  11. olepi

    The way America treats its veterans is a national disgrace. Remember Walter Reed? That was our wake-up call to really bear down and do something. But nobody wants to pay what the real costs are. And the GOP even wants to cut veterans benefits and cut the VA's budget.

    It's not something we "missed", it's something nobody cared enough about to really do anything.

    May 11, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  12. Paul

    Yea like Obama missed what was going on in Benghazi.... You saw someone who had reduced costs at one small VA Hospital promoted her and never cared to look and see how she did it..... You Sir should be fired and if I could I would it's people like you in these positions who never care who is doing what as long as the bottom line looks good. Well your bottom line let how many Veterans die?

    May 11, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. Justin Cider

    While they claim to support the troops publicly, what the GOP has done to our vets post-war is simply disgraceful.

    May 11, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |

    The VA MUST TAKE CARE OF THE 400,000 VETERANS' CLAIMS STUCK IN THE APPEALS BACKLOG ( cardboard boxes full of veterans' claims thrown into dark, moldy storage rooms).
    If the VA took care of each disabled veteran's medical care and compensation, they would still have billions of dollars in the budget to stick in Shinseki's, Hickey's and the VA Claims Processors' pocket!

    May 11, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  15. Sal

    Chuck would have trouble finding a tick on his hiney.

    May 11, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  16. Jib76

    The fiscal conservatives do not want to spend more for more VA doctors and pay for them with more taxes.

    May 11, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  17. Gil

    This isn't a recent problem, It's been going on for decades. I remember waiting months for an appointment to the VA back in the 80s. This is Congress' problem as they always have a hard time funding the VA. You can only do so much on a shoe string budget.

    May 11, 2014 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  18. Patrick

    "We missed it?" HAGEL himself should be fired – for making such a stupid and insensitive statement!

    May 11, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  19. Jas Hook

    Fire Shinseki and remove all Directors.

    May 11, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  20. mark

    Years Ha try century

    May 11, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  21. sameeker

    Paul – How may soldiers died in Iraq to make Halliburton billions? That is where the real crime lies.

    May 11, 2014 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  22. Fred

    The real question that also needs answering is how many vets have run from the VA because the care they finally did get was sub par. I am one, they tried to kill me in 05 and I had to go to a private hospital for a surgeon to go in behind a VA surgeon to clean up the mess, five months later I finally got out of the hospital, ALIVE.

    May 11, 2014 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  23. 1776usa2016

    It is the neglect from the GOP for over 5 decades that led to this situation in the VA.

    The GOP is all rah-rah-rah to go to war. Any war. Spending trillions and putting the bill on the US credit card (national debt).

    But when it comes time to fund the VA or education or healthcare or anything to do with average middle-class America, the GOP is nowhere to be found.


    May 11, 2014 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  24. Comical

    “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.” Really? No kidding!

    May 11, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  25. uncdig

    We missed it" no carp! Gotta love Hagel trying to put the blame somewhere else – it didn't start w Gen Shinski' s term – well it sure the heck did go on and was accelerated under his watch. No accountability in the administration

    May 11, 2014 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
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