House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Thursday said President Barack Obama needs to apologize to veterans around the country for the long waiting times for veterans seeking health care, and for the efforts of some officials to cover up those long wait times.
“It’s time President Obama personally answer for the horrific conditions and abuses occurring at our veterans facilities,” Cantor said. “[Department of Veterans Affairs] Secretary Shinseki should be held accountable for the failures of his department, but it is ultimately President Obama who must answer for what has occurred under his administration.
“Time after time, President Obama deflects blame to his hand-picked cabinet secretaries,” he added. “The president has said White House staff will now review the situation, but it is time for the President to get involved directly.”
Cantor’s comments came hours after Shinseki testified in a Senate committee in which he was asked about the scandal involving the manipulation of wait-time data to make it look like veterans were receiving prompt medical care.
At the Senate hearing, a GOP senator asked if anyone has been fired over the scandal, but Shinseki said he did not know. Shinseki also said the investigation now being conducted by the VA’s Inspector General should be allowed to finish before any decisions are made and answer that seemed to satisfy few senators.
In light of those responses, Cantor said it’s time that Obama take charge of the situation.
“It’s time for President Obama to apologize to our nation’s veterans, explain what he is doing to immediately fix the situation and ensure the best possible care for our veterans and support for their families going forward,” he said.
Cantor also announced that the House would consider legislation next week that would make it easier for Shinseki to fire officials involved in the coverup. Department secretaries generally have that authority, but the GOP bill is meant to streamline the process in order to shed bad apple employees more quickly.
The bill from Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) would allow firings if the performance of the employee in question warrants it, and would require the VA to inform Congress when these decisions are made.