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GOP puts it to Obama: 'Are you willing to do whatever it takes' to fix the VA?

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22: House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) holds his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol on May 22, 2014 in Washington, DC. During his statements, Boehner said that he is getting closer to calling on Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

House Republican leaders on Wednesday called on President Barack Obama to pick up the pace in finding solutions to the veterans healthcare scandal, which has denied or delayed healthcare to thousands of veterans around the country.

"Are you willing to do whatever it takes, pending the results of the investigations that are underway, to ensure our veterans get the care we owe them, even if it means shaking up the current bureaucracy and rethinking the entire system?" House GOP leaders asked in their letter to Obama. "Do you agree the VA is a system that may need to be fundamentally transformed in order to meet its mandate of service and care to our nation's veterans?"

House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders are demanding more details about what President Barack Obama will do to fix the broken Department of Veterans Affairs. T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

The letter was signed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).

These and many other Republicans have criticized Obama and Senate Democrats for moving too slowly to fix the VA's broken healthcare system. While former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned, the GOP has complained that the administration has so far only taken steps to fire and discipline VA officials in Phoenix, Arizona, after an interim report confirmed problems there.

For example, that report found that 1,700 veterans in Phoenix had yet to be put on any wait list for healthcare services.

But while the administration has taken steps to fix the problem in Phoenix, the GOP letter said nothing is being done in other VA clinics.

"In light of the systemic nature of this problem, however, how will you address veterans who are waiting for care across the country?" it said. "All veterans on waiting lists should be able to easily access care outside the VA without waiting for a potentially corrupt facility to approve their request.

"Our veterans should not be left in limbo, relying on what your own audit acknowledges is a 'systemic lack of integrity within some Veterans Health Administration facilities.' "

The letter suggested that Obama should support a pending GOP bill that would let veterans receive care outside the VA system if they can't get an appointment after 30 days. But it also called on him to support a House-passed bill making it easier for the VA secretary to fire senior officials.

Senate Democrats have blocked work on that bill so far. "We ask that you publicly call on Senate Democrats to reconsider their obstruction, and immediately pass H.R. 4031 so we can begin to address these 'basic management issues,' " the GOP leaders wrote.

Finally, the GOP asked Obama to instruct the VA to cooperate with congressional oversight efforts. Read the full letter here:


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