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Hagel: Calls to oust Shinseki are 'premature'

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:13 a.m. HST, May 23, 2014

WASHINGTON >> Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in an interview broadcast Friday that the focus of an investigation into alleged delayed treatments and deaths in the Veterans Administration's health care system should be to "fix the problem" rather than to fire VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

"I've known him a long time," Hagel said in an interview with CBS News.

Hagel said more facts need to be learned and that it would be premature to oust Shinseki, a retired Army general.

"There does have to be accountability, right up and down the line," said Hagel, himself a military veteran. He said the government has "no higher responsibility" than to provide top-shelf medical care to servicemen and women who have worn the country's uniform.

"We know things went wrong," the secretary said. "Somebody's got to be accountable here, like in any institution."

President Barack Obama earlier this week told a White House news conference that allegations of misconduct at VA hospitals will not be tolerated, and he left open the possibility that Shinseki could be held to account.

"I will not stand for it -- not as commander in chief but also not as an American," Obama said following an Oval Office meeting with Shinseki.

The growing controversy surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs centers on allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at VA hospitals. The department's inspect general's office says 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide, including a Phoenix hospital facing allegations that 40 people died while waiting for treatment and staff kept a secret list of patients in order to hide delays in care.

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Locokane wrote:
Delayed treatments causing deaths at the VA is just the tip of the iceberg of VA's systemic problems which have not been corrected during the over 5 year tenure of Secretary Shinseki. The problems with a tremendous backlog of delayed service connected claims and poor initial screening done by non-qualified medical personnel have disqualified many veterans for health care. Plus, the number of lawyers on staff to review claims should be replace with more doctors. Older vets including those that served during the Korean War and Vietnam War Era who are older and dying are not given any priority. There is no way to vett your concerns about a local VA unless you call an 800 number or you can write to Secretary Shinseki and don't get a response by him or his staff. The VA website to help vets is incomplete and complicated. HIs prior self "raves" of improvement of VA under his leadership of Secretary Shinseki has been premature, now it is ripe for him to do the right thing.
on May 23,2014 | 08:00AM
localguy wrote:
If you are going to hammer those in government who are failing in their jobs, you need to start with our utterly dysfunctional congress and senate. They have completed the least work in decades, have performance and review ratings in the gutter, continually waste billions of our tax dollars, and worst of all, are responsible for shutting down the government several times. Lets also not forget congress is directly accountable for the New England Medical Compounding fiasco, resulting in the deaths of innocent people. The Surgeon General told congress FDA oversight was required. Congress kowtowed to the special interest groups and said NO. People died. So lets start first with calling for all of our clueless congress and senate to resign first. No one will miss bureaucrats like Boehner, Reid, McConnell, Pelosi, on and on. They need to do the right thing and all resign for incompetence.
on May 23,2014 | 08:13AM
Winston wrote:
Your post may have some factual merit, but what does it have to do with the VA issue at hand?
on May 23,2014 | 08:47AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Shinseki needs to go. It's as simple as that. He didn't cause the problems but in 5 years he has been ineffectual in correcting the problems.
on May 23,2014 | 08:25AM
Skyler wrote:
This has been going on for decades, yet you expected the General to fix it all in 5 years? Obviously something needs to be done, but this time - point your fingers @ the Senate who denied a vote for the VA Accountability Act. I will gladly point you to the article in the WaPo, if you'd like to read it.
on May 23,2014 | 10:48AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
He was hired to do a job. He failed. He needs to go.
on May 23,2014 | 11:33AM
Skyler wrote:
So, then what? Months of hearings, another 'head' with no way to fire those who conspired to hurt our Veterans? Pushing him to resign will do nothing to solve the disfunction. Giving him the legal tools to do his job will.
on May 23,2014 | 02:37PM
Winston wrote:
All this talk about firing someone, but little urgency in immediately resolving this waiting list problem. The president needs to quickly act to be sure that no more die while waiting in line. Stop the spinning, excuses and find the manpower to do it, now. Go to DoD if necessary, but do something to solve the problem RIGHT NOW. There'll be plenty of time later to blame Bush and shuffle bureaucrats around later.
on May 23,2014 | 08:50AM
Skyler wrote:
I think with the auditing, that issue will be resolved IF the culprits of the problem are let go. Schedulers, managers, etc. who conspired to do this to our Vets should be thrown in the brig.
on May 23,2014 | 02:38PM
st1d wrote:
even the most dedicated and qualified doctors, nurses and medical support staff can not overcome decades of abuse to veterans by the subculture of the bottom dwellers employed by the veterans' administration.

the va draws a critical mass of its work force from the bottom half of medical graduates, doctors, nurses and support who are unable to perform at even a mediocre level. these bottom dwellers have undermined the va's goals and services to veterans by falsifying records and delaying treatment.

it will take more than just one shinseki to overcome this toxic subculture that exists at the va.

thank god the talented and qualified va doctors, nurses and support staff continue to provide the best treatments they can under the circumstances.

on May 23,2014 | 10:11AM
leahi2 wrote:
As I said before, Bush and the rest of his warmongers got us into this mess. By sending our young men and women to war (for the non existent WMD) was when he laid the eggs to today's medical problems whereby our troops got killed and severely wounded. The war is over thanks to Obama but the Chickens (I mean the medical problems) came home to roost. The problem is bigger than Shinseki and bigger than the simple minded critics who want him fired. Note also that the problem is bigger than Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condoleeza, McCain and the rest of the warmongers combined.. Where were the critics when the problems surfaced during the Bush administration? Why don't today's critics scream for Bush to be tried for all the lies he put forth.
on May 23,2014 | 10:49AM
jkjones wrote:
OMG. Are you serious--blame Bush?
on May 23,2014 | 11:18AM
DAGR81 wrote:
You are really out there...thanks for the humor though.
on May 23,2014 | 11:55AM
jkjones wrote:
What about accountability? Obviousily missing I Hagel's summation. Gen Shinseki would have been relieved of command under military protocol. Who knows with this administration--they take the 5th and the Justice Dept stonewalls the investigation. Than the dog whistle goes off for the party to close ranks and spin. Not this time. Shinseki is part of the VA dysfunction and waiting list scandal. Amazing how he promises to get to the bottom of this controversy after nearly 6 years at the helm.
on May 23,2014 | 11:16AM
control wrote:
Republicans have hated Shinseki ever since the general stood up to the Bush administration's lies about the Iraq War. Shinseki got it right and the Redummican's don't like looking like id*ots even when its true. Oh, and the fact that Obama appointed him - two birds, one stone.
on May 23,2014 | 12:06PM
jkjones wrote:
I see. This whole matter is a partisan issue, right? A witch hunt to burn Shinseki at the stake. Simple minds.
on May 23,2014 | 12:58PM
false wrote:
I did not know Bush was President during WW2...
on May 23,2014 | 11:18AM
st1d wrote:
guess they're blaming him for fighting in ww2.
on May 23,2014 | 11:33AM
false wrote:
The teflon prez... nothing is his fault
on May 23,2014 | 11:19AM
cojef wrote:
Both Hagel and Shinseki are veterans of the Viet Nam War and they both suffered serious injuries. There is an intense kinship among Viet Nam veterans because they were not accorded the recognition they much deserved after the war. Being a WW II veteran and recipient of VA hospital treatment in the middle 50's, feel for the General. Having said that, he has been given 5 years to clean up the mess, after being informed by the Bush transitional team of the mess at the VA. Progress has been slow and the mess he inherited has gotten worse. Additionally, a large number of veteran lives in the interim have been lost . It is now necessary to bring a new management team. In the meantime a temporary voucher system that will be accepted by the private sector medical establishment be immediately implemented to stop the death from occurring.
on May 23,2014 | 11:36AM
jkjones wrote:
Many of the veterans who died waiting to be treated at the Phoenix VA were Vietnam veterans. What about them? Hagel and Shinseki have Cadillac medical plans, how about those who served under or beside them?
on May 23,2014 | 12:55PM
serious wrote:
The VA benefits when first started were for service related treatments--fine, but now it has revolved into a health care program for any veteran and the system is not equipped to handle it. Veterans get older and require more attention and the number is growing. Look at, as an example, Tripler and the VA right next to it--you are admitted to one but not the other--duplication--this can all be fixed if someone would get a CEO from a major company and without political intervention get it fixed. If anyone is interested FDR, when the outbreak of war was eminent he sought a Democrat who had business experience to get the industrial machine going--there weren't any--so he got a Republican to win the war--it's all in "Freedom's Forge" read it--great management tool.
on May 23,2014 | 01:41PM
entrkn wrote:
It seems reasonable to me that all the senators and congressmen who voted to oppose VA funding should vacate their positions in disgrace.
on May 23,2014 | 01:55PM
Winston wrote:
VA funding increased 88% under Bush, 78% under Obama. Don't think funding is the problem.
on May 23,2014 | 02:30PM
samidunn wrote:
The problem is big government doesn't work.
on May 23,2014 | 03:06PM
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