Getting to the bottom of the Veterans Affairs scandal may be easier than it looks for the Obama administration, considering they were apparently told of the issue as far back as 2008.
Media outlets, from the Times Picayune/NOLA.com to ABC News, have ignored the fact that the Obama administration immediately after winning the presidential election back in 2008 was warned of Veterans Affairs hospitals not reporting accurate wait-times.
Just as news breaks that President Obama has made a “pledge to get to the bottom of health care problems at Veterans Administration medical facilities,” as the Times Picayune reports, media outlets have failed to note what the Washington Times has already reported.
According to the Washington Times, who has obtained briefing materials thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, officials with the VA told President Obama and Vice President Biden’s “transition teams” immediately after Obama won the 2008 presidential election to not trust the reported wait times by the VA hospitals.
“This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying — and potentially denying — deserving veterans timely care,” the officials wrote.
The briefing materials, obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act, make clear that the problems existed well before Mr. Obama took office, dating back at least to the Bush administration. But the materials raise questions about what actions the department took since 2009 to remedy the problems.
But, the Times Picayune completely disregards this in their reporting, opting for a narrative that paints the President as a fighter against the scandal, which he knew nothing about. Here’s an excerpt from their report:
At a White House news conference Wednesday, the president said he wanted a preliminary report on allegations some VA medical facilities put out false information indicating much shorter wait times for health care than was the case and that some veterans died while waiting for appointments.
Obama offered up praise for Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki’s long service to the nation, mostly in the military, but suggested his tenure at the VA might not last much longer. He called for a preliminary report from Shinseki next week. And he ordered a more complete evaluation by next month that will be led by Obama’s deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors.
“When I hear allegations of misconduct — any misconduct — whether it’s allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books, I will not stand for it,” Obama said. “Not as Commander-in-Chief, but also not as an American. None of us should. So if these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it — period.”
The Times Picayune goes on to say that the President spoke about the issue on “very personal terms,” including a large quote that does not exactly address the VA scandal itself or how the administration will go about getting to the bottom of it.
Then, on a more national media outlet scale, there is a report by ABC News. The report, like the Times Picayune, coincidentally fails to mention the fact that the President was made aware of the suspicious VA hospital wait-time reporting back in 2008.
Instead, ABC News opts for the same narrative that the Times Picayune opted for: A White House that had no clue about the scandal and is not doing everything in their power to fight it.
Here’s an excerpt from the ABC News report:
President Obama today said he “will not stand” for misconduct at the Veterans Affairs Department and vowed that those responsible for allegedly covering up long delays in veteran care would be held accountable if the charges prove to be true.
“It is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period,” Obama told reporters at the White House.
The president’s comments came just moments after he met in the Oval Office with embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to receive an update on the allegations and investigation. They were joined by Rob Nabors, Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff, who has been assigned to assist with the review of the agency.
The president announced he expects preliminary results of Shinseki and Nabors’ review next week.
“I know that people are angry and want swift reckoning. I sympathize with that. But we have to let the investigators do their job and get to the bottom of what happened. Our veterans deserve to know the facts. Their families deserve to know the facts. Once we know the facts, I assure you if there is misconduct it will be punished,” the president said.
The VA scandal first broke when it was reported that a total of 40 possible deaths of veterans, who were waiting for medical care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care hospital, was exposed. Then, a “secret list” was leaked and was allegedly part of a plan created by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to cover up the fact that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor.
Now, more allegations of extended wait-times and “secret lists” at VA hospitals in New Mexico, Colorado, North Carolina, Texas and Wyoming are popping up.
The President, though, said that the VA Insepector General did not find that deaths were linked to long wait-times, saying “I think it is important to recognize that the wait times generally — what the IG indicated so far, at least, is the wait times were folks who may have had chronic conditions, were seeking their next appointment, but may have already received service. It was not necessarily a situation where they were calling for emergency services. And the IG indicated that he did not see a link between the wait and them actually dying.”