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The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to make it easier to fire senior Veterans Affairs officials involved in the healthcare scandal, just hours after President Barack Obama delivered a speech that failed to satisfy those looking to take quick action against the VA.
Members passed the VA Management Accountability Act in an easy 390-33 vote — the only “no” votes came from Democrats.
Passage of the bill is the latest domino to fall in the expanding healthcare scandal that has members of both parties fuming at the department. The VA recently admitted that long wait-times for health clinics contributed to the death of more than 40 veterans, and it later came out that the VA had known about these problems for years, but tried to cover up the problem.
In the face of calls for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Obama’s White House speech fell flat on Wednesday for members who wanted to hear more. Obama essentially said he wanted to wait for an Inspector General report to come out, and indicated Shinseki would stick around to help fix the problem.
House bills are often opposed by Democrats, but in this case, two Democrats said the bill doesn’t go far enough. Rep Michael Michaud (D-Maine) said he supported the idea of turning the roughly 400 senior executive service workers into “at-will” employees.
But Michaud said he wished the bill also covered senior doctors and dentists, some of whom are thought to be part of the problem related to long wait times at VA clinics. Michaud said he hoped the House and Senate could add this language at a later point in the legislative process.
Another Democrat, Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), made an emotional speech on the floor in which he said Shinseki needs to be the first person fired in the scandal. Scott blamed Shinseki’s failed leadership for military suicides in a Georgia hospital, and said VA officials told members of Congress during a visit that there were no more suicides to report.
“And they told a damn lie!” Scott bellowed. “The very next day it was exposed there was another soldier that committed suicide, and they covered it up!”
President Obama’s transition team was warned in 2008 that repeated audits showed the Veterans Affairs Department was misreporting wait times for medical treatment, including one audit revealing delays nearly 10 times worse than the department was officially acknowledging.
The situation was so bad that the inspector general said it stopped trying to police the issue until the VA could prove its information was accurate — raising a red flag for the transition team, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times.
The documents, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, show the problem extended back to at least the middle of the Bush administration but remained unresolved when Mr. Obama won election in 2008, and the VA was unable to say this week whether it ever took any steps to correct the problems.
According to the documents, the VA inspector general told the Obama transition team of three audits dating back to 2005 that revealed significant problems with wait times and scheduling.
One of those audits showed an instance in which the department reported 2,900 veterans waited more than a month for medical appointments. The actual figure was closer to 28,000 veterans, according to the auditors.
originally posted by: AngryCymraeg
I think that the noise being made by the Republicans on this matter would be a little more believable if the Republicans hadn't filibustered the last attempt at raising the VA's budget.
originally posted by: butcherguy
Obama should do like they did in the old days and appoint a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of all of this.
No wait... that wouldn't be in his best interests, would it?
Its Congress's way of checking the authority of the Executive branch when the DOJ declines to act / investigate their own for crimes. - See more at: www.abovetopsecret.com...
originally posted by: Xcathdra
a reply to: Krazysh0t
This entire mess is going to blow up in the Democrats face.
For officials to call for the resignation of Shinseki while saying nothing about Kathleen Sibelius - HHS, Eric Holder - DOJ, IRS, Clinton and Benghazi, Kerry .. etc etc etc leads me to the conclusion that some democrats are going to attempt to use this to distance themselves from Obama in the upcoming midterms.
I also find it problematic for people to lecture on holding people accountable when the people above are still in their current positions (except Clinton).
The buck stops at Obama and because of that I am sure we will see George Bush and the racist white people who don't like Obama being blamed.
originally posted by: wrkn4livn
I'd be watching this. I see where the head if the VA (his job at risk) has fired serval managers at the AZ offices. I'd bet they sue the government, get all their lost pay back, and my even be able to keep their jobs. See this all the time in the FAA.