WBEN NewsRadio 930>Audio & Video on Demand>>Pres. Obama on The Veterans' Administration Troubles

Pres. Obama on The Veterans' Administration Troubles

May 21, 2014|

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

This is the CBS news special report the president on the VA hospitals investigation I'm Dan reprieve. President Obama stepped personally into this today by meeting his veterans affairs secretary retired army general Eric -- psyche. We're about to hear from mr. Obama a CBS news White House correspondent Peter -- After reports that veterans have died because of delays in getting treatment at VA hospitals a what's the president been doing on this. Well in fact Dan that this morning's meeting was a late add to mr. Obama's schedule he met with secretary shinseki four. Nearly an hour here in the Oval Office going into the statement White House advisors are telling CBS news. The president will not be announcing any a change in the VA secretary status. In his upcoming statement the president will outline his own anger about the VA's problems he'll discuss his expectations for the ongoing reviews and his marching orders for his own trouble shooter his eyes and ears rob -- here's the president. Good morning they're but it. I just met with -- -- checking in rob nabors who I temporarily assigned to work with sort sectors should second of the day. We focused on two issues. -- allegations of misconduct at veterans affairs Soviets and our broader mission of caring for our veterans. And their families. As commander in chief. I have the honor of standing -- our men and women in uniform at every step of their service. From the moment that they're -- When our troops prepare to deploy. To Afghanistan. Where they put their lives on the line for security. To their bedside. As a wounded warriors fight to recover from terrible injuries. The most searing moments of my presidency. Have been going to. Walter Reed or Bethesda or Barbara. And meeting troops who were left a part of themselves. On the battlefield. And their spirit. And their determination. To recover and often to serve again. Is always an inspiration. So these men and women and their families are the best. And our country has -- -- They've done their duty. And they -- nothing more than that this country does hours. We uphold. Our sacred trust to all who have served. So when I hear allegations of misconduct. Any misconduct. Whether it's allegations of BA's staff covering up long wait times. Or cooking the books. I will not stand for. Not as commander in chief. But also not as America. Not -- publisher. So. If these allegations prove to be true it is dishonorable. It is disgraceful. And I will not tolerate it period. Here's what I discuss what sectors -- circuit has more to it. First. Anybody found to have manipulated or falsified records at VA facilities. Has to be held accountable. The inspector general at the VA has launched investigations into the Phoenix BA and other facilities. And some individuals are good put on administratively. I know. The people are angry and want -- record. I sympathize with that. We have to let the investigators do their job and get to the bottom of what happened. Our veterans deserve all the facts their families deserve to know the facts. Once we know the facts. I assure your. If there is misconduct there won't be punished. Second. I wanna know the full scope of this -- That's wire I ordered strict version -- to investigate. Today he updated me on his review. Which is looking not just of the Phoenix facility but also VA facility is across the nation and I expect. Preliminary results from that review next week. Third and I've directed rob -- to conduct a broader review of the Veterans Health Administration. The part of the VA that delivers health care tour vets. And -- going to Phoenix today. Keep in mind though even if we have not heard reports out of this Phoenix missile or other facilities. We don't know that it often takes too long for veterans to get the care that they need. That's not a new development. It's been a problem for decades. And it's been compounded by more than a decade of war. That's why when I came into office I said we would systematically worked to fix these problems and we have been. Working really hard to address. My attitude is. For folks who've been fighting on the battlefield they should not have to fight a bureaucracy. At home to get the care that they -- So the presumption has always been we've got to do better. And -- -- review will be a comprehensive look at the veterans health administration's approach currently access to care. I wanna know what's working I wanna know what is not working and wants specific recommendations. On how VA can up their game that I expect that full report from rob next month. Number four. I -- that I expect everyone involved. To work with congress which has an important oversight role to play. I welcome congress as a partner in our efforts not just to address the current controversies but to make sure we're doing right by our veterans across the board. I served on the veterans affairs committee when I was in the senate. And it was one of the proudest. He's a business that I did in the legislature and I know the folks over their care deeply about our veterans it is important. That. Our veterans. Don't become another political football. Especially when so many of them are receiving care right now this is an area where Democrats and Republicans. Should always be work and got. Which brings me my final point. Even as we get to the bottom of what happened at Phoenix and other facilities. All of us when we're here in Washington are all across the country. Have to stay focused on the larger mission which is upholding our sacred trust to all of our veterans. Bringing the VA system into the point 0% for which is not an easy task. We have made progress over the last five years. We've made historic investments in our veterans. We boosted VA funding to record levels and we created consistency. Through advanced appropriations so that. Veterans organizations -- their money would be there regardless of political wrangling in Washington. We made VA benefits available to more than two million veterans who did not have a before. Delivering disability -- more. Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange. Making it easier for veterans -- posttraumatic stress and mental health issues and traumatic brain injury to get treatment. And improving care for women's veterans. Because of these steps and the influx of new veterans were acquiring services. Added in many cases to wait times we launched an all out war on the disability claims. Backed off. And in just the past year alone we slashed that back walk by that. Of course we're not gonna let up because still to Iraq. We're gonna keep at it until we eliminate the backlog. Once and for all. Meanwhile we're also reducing homelessness among our veterans. We're helping veterans and their families more than million so far pursued -- education under the post 9/11 GI bill. We're stepping up our efforts to help our newest veterans get the skills and training to find jobs when they come home. And along with -- Michelle and Joseph Biden is joining forces we've helped hundreds of thousands of veterans find a job. More veterans are finding work and veterans' unemployment. Although still way too why is coming down. The point is. Caring for our veterans is not an issue that popped up in recent weeks. Some of the problems. With respect to how veterans are able to access. The benefits that they've -- that's not a new issue that's an issue -- working on when I was running for the United States senate. Taking care of our veterans and their families. Has been one of the causes of my presidency. And it is something that all of us. Have to be involved what -- have to be paying attention to. We ended the war in Iraq and has our war in Afghanistan ends and as our newest veterans are coming home. The demands on the VA are going to grow. So we're gonna have to redouble our efforts to get it right as a nation. And we have to be honest that there are and will continue to be areas where we've got to do a lot better. So today I want it every -- to know. We -- gonna fix what ever is wrong and so long as I have the privilege of serving as commander in chief. I'm gonna keep on fighting to deliver the care and benefits. -- opportunities. For your families deserve. Now. -- for decades to come. That is a commitment. To which. I feel sacred duty. Two maintained. So -- bet I'm gonna take your questions. Military -- -- pure invective personal. Thank you president. As you say good news about cars. Why wasn't the last day. This stage. We actually had. Actually forty. Die while we eat for -- -- best that's so he's. Why did my question that. Well we have to find out first of all what exactly happened and I don't want. Get ahead of the IG report or the other investigations that are being done. And I think it is important. To recognize that. The wait times generally what BIG indicated so far at least as the wait times were for folks who may have had chronic conditions. We're seeking their next appointment but may have already received service. It was not necessarily a situation where they were calling for emergency services. And -- indicated that he did not see a link between the weight. And them actually done that does not excuse the fact. That the wait times in general are too long in some facilities. And so what we have to do is find out. What exactly. Happened. We have to find out how can we realistically cut some of these -- arms. There has been a large influx of new veterans coming -- we've got a population of veterans that is also agent as part of the baby boom population. And we've got to make sure that. The scheduling system the access to the system. That all those things are insect there are parts of the VA health care system that have performed well. And what we've seen news for example satisfaction rates. In many facilities and with respect -- many providers has been high. But. What you see what we're seeing is that in terms of how folks get schedule. How they get in the system. They're still too many problems I'm gonna get a complete report from. It is not as a consequence people not caring about the problem but there are 85. Million appointments. Scheduled among veterans. During the course of the year. That's a lot of appointments and that means we've got to have a system that has built in order to be able to. Take those folks in in a smooth fashion. That they know what to expect that it's reliable. And that means that the VA has got to set standards but it can be. An -- if you can't meet them right now than it's gonna have to. Set realistic goals about how they improve the system overall. Stability and ultimately -- You know responsibility for things always rests ultimately -- made it's. As president commander chief. -- exactly. Is it has been a great soldier. He himself is a disabled veteran. And nobody cares more about our veterans -- -- that. So. You know it if you ask me. How to I think -- record has performed overall I would say that. On homelessness on 9/11 GI bill on working with -- us to reduce the backlog across the board. He has put his heart and soul into this thing and is taken very seriously but I have said to Rick. I -- to him today. I wanna see. What the results of these reports are and there is going to be accountability and I'm gonna expect. Even before the reports are done that we are seeing significant improvement in terms of how. The admissions process takes place. In all of our VA healthcare facilities. So. I know cares about people. And you know he has been a great public servant. And a great warrior on behalf of the United States of America. We're gonna work with him to solve the problem. But I am -- Make sure that there is accountability throughout the system. After I get the full report. Steve well Marc thanks user has secretary he should be offered to. Years and -- caught by surprise but there. Erection -- I think. Who serves. This country because he cares deeply about. Veterans and he cares deeply about the match. And I know that Rick. So attitude as if he does not think you can do a good job on us and if you think -- let our veterans down. Then I'm sure that he is not wanna be interested in continue to serve. At this stage -- is committed to solving the problem and working with us to do. And I -- born to do everything in my power using the resources. Of the White House to help. That process of getting to bottom what happened. And fixing. But I'm also going to be waiting to see what. The results of all this review. Process yields. I don't yet know how sister is systemic business I don't get no further. A lot of other facilities that have been cooking the books. Or is this just an episodic problem. We know that. You're essentially. Wait times. Have been a problem for decades. In all kinds of circumstances -- respect to the -- getting benefits getting health care etc. Some facilities do better than others. A couple of years ago. The veterans. Affairs to set a goal of fourteen days to wait times. What's not yet clear to me is whether enough tools were given to make sure that those goals were actually -- And I won't know until the full report. Is has put forward as to whether there was enough management -- To ensure that those. Folks on the front lines were doing scheduling had the capacity to meet those goals if they are being evaluated for meeting goals that were unrealistic to make couldn't me because. I think there -- enough doctors of the systems weren't in place or what have you. We need to find out who was responsible for. -- setting up those guidelines so they're going to be a lot of questions that we have to answer in the meantime more excerpts. To Rick today. Is what's not Wafer the report retrospectively. -- reach out immediately. To veterans who. Currently waiting performance to make sure that they are getting better service. That's something that we can initiate right now we don't have to wait to find out if there was misconduct. To dig in and make sure that we're upping our game in all of our various sources. -- you know. I I do think it is important not just -- respect direction sector but -- with respect to the -- generally. To say that. Every single day there are people working in the VA. Who. Do outstanding work. And put everything they've got. Into making sure that our veterans get the care benefits and services that they -- And so. I do want to close by sending a message out there that. There are millions of veterans who were getting really good service from the VA. We're getting really good treatment from the VA I know because I get letters from veterans sometimes asking me to write. Letters of commendation or phrase to a doctor or nurse or facilities that. Couldn't have given them. Better treatment. And so this is a big system. With a lot of really good people and who care about our veterans people. We have seen the improvements on a whole range of issues like homelessness. Like. Start to clear the backlog up like making sure the folks who previously weren't even eligible for disability. Because it was a mental health issue or because it was it an agent or issue. Are finally able to get those services. I don't want us to lose sight of the fact that -- a lot of folks in the VA who were doing a really good job and working really hard. That does not on the other hand excuse. The possibility. That number one. We weren't just that we were not doing good enough job in terms of providing access to folks who need. An appointment for chronic conditions. Number two. It never excuses the possibility that somebody was trying to manipulate data. In order to look better or right there for so -- better. It it is critical to make sure that we have good information in order to make good decisions. I want people on the front lines of there's a problem to tell me. Or -- -- in second or so whoever's. They're superior that this is a problem don't cover up their problems do not pretend the problem doesn't exist. If you can't get wait times down to fourteen days right now I want your dilemma folks up the chain now. So that we can solve the problem do we need more doctors do we need a new system. In order to. Make sure that. The scheduling information. Is more effective and more smoke. Is there more follow. And that's. That's the thing that right now most disturbs me about the report the possibility. That folks. Intentionally withheld. Information that would have helped us fix a problem because there -- not a problem out there that's not fixable. It can't always be fixed as quickly as everybody would like but. Typically we can chip away at these problems we've seen this with a backlog we've seen it. Where veterans homelessness we've seen it we're denial of post nine elevenths GI bill initially there were problems what. They got fixed and now it's operating fairly smoothly so problems can be fixed but. Folks have to. Let. People that the reporting. To know. That there is a problem in order for us to fix our. Find out but my attitude is. -- if somebody's mismanaged. Or engaged in misconduct. Not only do I not want them getting bonuses I want them punished so that's what we're gonna hopefully find out. From the from the IG report as well we -- -- that are taking place all right. The wave of the hand President Obama walks away from the podium in the White House briefing room. Live coverage from CBS news. That last question was CBS news chief White House correspondent Major Garrett wondering if someone might be punished in what some are calling the VA scandal. President made a reference there are reports that an administrator at the VA hospital in Phoenix. As in fact gotten a bonus. Even as there was. But the problem and a reportedly may be even a cover up when it comes to the timing. Of medical appointments let's wrap up with -- our White House correspondent Peter -- Well certainly the president seems more active and more visible now on this veterans administration issue Peter. Well -- this was the first substantive comment that we heard from the president since April 28 when he was -- indeed asked about this when that he was in the Philippines. I think that going into the president's appearance here the big question was the status of the VA secretary erection psyche the president appraised. The Vietnam. War. -- a veteran and disabled veteran himself but he also said there. Has to be accountability for any problems at VA hospitals so sort of leaving open questions about general shouldn't -- future at the VA Dan. There will be you know I think commentary about the atmospherics why issue insect he was not day at the president's side for this announcement here today. And there will be some follow up on that that the president said. That they're meeting focused on the allegations of misconduct and the broader mission as he put it of caring for veterans and their families and then the president launched into his own emotions saying that he would not stand. For any. Dishonorable activities at the veterans administration. And he also said that while congress has a very crucial vital role in this noting his own experience on the senate veterans affairs committee the president said. In a message to congress it's important that our vets not become a political football in this so -- he's waiting for the outcome of reviews and tomorrow dispatching. His troubleshooter his eyes and ears on this rob nabors the deputy chief of staff one of the president's closest aides. To the Phoenix hospital that's been at the heart of this controversy. And I know Peter you'll have a lot more coverage here on the radio and on our app for you're Smartphones CBS radio news. As this day goes on for now this has been a CBS news special report with the White House correspondent Peter -- I'm Dan -- CBS news.