VA Official Who Takes the Fall Was Already Set to Retire This Year
Carney today talked in shades of the IRS scandal, when he suggested that the allegations of waitlist deaths were confined to Phoenix instead of a broader systemic problem. New claims of VA wrongdoing that kept veterans from seeing doctors have since popped up around the country.
"I think that there are -- there's an active review and -- as well as an investigation by the I.G. that will determine both the -- what happened in Phoenix and I'm sure, what happened elsewhere if -- if some of the other allegations that we've seen merit investigation," Carney told reporters.
"You're saying there's a suggestion that something terrible happened in Phoenix and that's under investigation... We are acting on the allegations and the suggestions that you suggest -- you pointed out," he said in a verbal tussle. "...We should just accept allegations as true without investigating them? I don't think that would be a normal procedure. Meanwhile, we are moving aggressively in a host of areas to ensure that our veterans are getting the -- the services and the care that they deserve."
Why, Carney was asked, would Shinseki tell the Senate committee that he was "mad as hell" if the allegations weren't true?
"The fact is, if what has been alleged is true, that would be an outrage, and that is an opinion shared by the president, by Secretary Shinseki, and I think everyone else who's looked at this matter and works on these issues, but the president was asked about the allegations and answered forthrightly and expressed his concern about it, the actions that we've taken reflect the concern that we have about it, and the fact that he's sent one of his most trusted and top aides from the White House over to the V.A. to assist the secretary in his review reflects the seriousness with which we take this matter," Carney said.
"But again, I would simply say that it stands to reason that when allegations are made, it's important to be that they are investigated to find out the truth behind the matter before we just assume that what happened or what's said to have happened is true. I'm not in any way prejudging because I don't think we ought to prejudge."
Among the new reports popping up of waitlist fraud came from Gainesville, Fla., where the Ocala Star Banner revealed that the VA suspended three employees over a 200-name-long secret waiting list for mental health treatment.
"This would be outrageous in its own right, but it’s even more so because of the pervasive problems emerging about the VA each day in all corners of the country," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said.
Rubio said he asked Shinseki earlier in the week for all information regarding secret VA waiting lists in Florida and Biloxi, Miss. "I don’t want to wait until everything is ready. I want to see what is available now, starting with Gainesville," he said.
"From problems in Phoenix to Miami and now potentially Gainesville too, we’ve seen plenty of finger-pointing and excuses, but no one actually being fired for incompetence and negligence in the performance of their duties."
“It’s indeed time for fresh leadership at the VA, but Americans are demanding more than the hollow gesture of the resignation of an undersecretary who already announced his departure last year. It’s time for Secretary Shinseki to follow suit and resign as well,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “His reticence to hold fellow bureaucrats at the VA accountable is exactly why we need new leadership that is willing to take swift action to ensure we are living up to our promises to our nations’ heroes."