President Obama says he immediately ordered an investigation of the Phoenix VA system after his administration heard the allegations that 40 veterans died while awaiting healthcare treatment.
Obama, who currently is in the Philippines, told reporters his administration takes the allegations "very seriously," according to a White House transcript.
Here are all of Obama's comments today on the Phoenix VA situation:
The moment we heard about the allegations around these 40 individuals who had died in Phoenix, I immediately ordered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Shinseki, to investigate. We also have an IG investigation taking place. And so we take the allegations very seriously.
That is consistent with what has been my rock-solid commitment to make sure that our veterans are cared for. I believe that if somebody has served our nation, then they have to get the benefits and services that they have earned. And my budgets have consistently reflected that. That's why we've resourced the Veterans Affairs office more in terms of increases than any other department or agency in my government.
That doesn't mean, though, that some folks may still not be getting the help that they need. And we're going to find out if, in fact, that's the case, and I'm interested in working with everybody, whether it's our outstanding veteran service organizations or Congress, to make sure that there is not a single veteran in the United States who needs help -- whether because they're homeless, because they're sick, because they're looking for a job. I want to make sure that they are getting the help that they need.
A retired VA doctor is the one who blew the whistle on this situation, telling the Arizona Republic and CNN that there was something of a "secret" waiting list for patients -- one showing more acceptable wait times was sent back to Washington, while the actual waiting list was much longer, according to the claims. The Republic's story also mentions "other whistle-blowers" who apparently corroborate these claims.
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Wait times have been an issue for some time at VA hospitals around the country, but the allegations published by the Republic and, later, CNN, include claims that as many as 40 veterans died in Phoenix because of the delays, while VA executives collected bonuses for creating the illusion that wait times had been reduced.
While Obama seems to be waiting on that inspector general's investigation to end before taking any action, the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee is also waiting on it. Committee Chairman Senator Bernie Sanders has agreed to hold a hearing, at the request of Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, after that report's complete.
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