White House Dodges Key Questions About VA Scandal

The top White House official who was named as the point man to review the Veterans Affairs waiting list scandal will travel Wednesday to Phoenix, where the initial reports that veterans were being denied help surfaced.

PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 08: Exterior view of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on May 8, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Department of Veteran Affairs has come under fire after reports of the deaths of 40 patients forced to wait for medical care at the Phoenix VA hopsital. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Since then, more reports emerged that veterans had to wait extremely long time or were denied care at VA medical facilities in Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Wyoming, South Carolina, New Mexico, Missouri, Florida and West Virginia.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors, who was named by the White House to help Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will be talking to the interim head of the Phoenix facility, as well as veteran groups in the area such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

“Rob is on his way to Phoenix to visit the Veterans Affairs medical facility to meet with its acting director as part of this review,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday. “The president looks forward to the review and the independent investigation that is underway and is being conducted by the inspector general.”

While the administration is doing the review, the VA’s Office of Inspector General is also conducting a more independent investigation on the matter.

But as much as Carney talked about accountability during the Tuesday press briefing, he did not have direct answers as to when President Obama knew that VA officials had been concealing wait times.

Referring to a 2010 VA memo reflecting problems, a reporter asked Carney, “How long has the president know about the concealing of this?”

Carney responded, “I would urge you to wait for the investigation.”

The reporter followed, “How long as the secretary known about this?”

Carney respond, “I would refer for questions about the secretary of veterans affairs to the VA.”

The VA’s problems have gotten significant bipartisan criticism.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said he hopes the White House and administration will take more responsibility.

“The American people are frustrated, especially when those who have served our country in uniform have been treated the way they have, and God forbid, who have perished because of the mess at the VA,” Cantor said in a statement. “I will tell you I am disturbed by statements out of the White House that say that the President heard about this in the news. It is time for our President to come forward and to take responsibility for this – and to do the right thing by these veterans and begin to show that he actually cares about getting it straight.”

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq war veteran, double-amputee and former VA assistant secretary, told the Washington Post that she isn’t surprised about the department’s problems, but thought the president should do more.

“It’s hard, because Mrs. Obama has done so much and Mrs. Biden has done so much and I see that as part of the president’s push,” Duckworth said. “I think he’s relied on Secretary Shinseki, but we could use his personal attention at this point.”

Carney said the president is addressing the matter.

“What I’m telling you is his personal attention is there,” Carney said. “We share concerns around allegations in recent days surfaced in recent days. We want to get to bottom of what happened.”