President Obama met with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki yesterday to discuss the allegations of corruption at VA hospitals. Many have called for Shinseki’s ouster after a VA hospital in Phoenix was reported to have kept a secret waiting list in an effort to hide its long wait times. In a press conference after the meeting, however, Obama expressed his confidence in Shinseki. According to CNN:
Asked if Shinseki offered to resign, [Obama] said the retired Army general “cares deeply about veterans and he cares deeply about the mission, and I know that Rick’s attitude is if he doesn’t think he can do a good job on this and if he thinks he’s let our veterans down, then I’m sure that he is not going to be interested in continuing to serve.”
The inquiry into corruption at the VA has picked up steam, with 26 hospitals now under investigation. A VA hospital in Gainesville, Florida was recently discovered to have kept some patients’ names out of their electronic system, likely also in an effort to disguise the length of the waiting list.For now, President Obama is standing behind Shinseki, to the displeasure of veterans’ groups. This vote of support could be the product of a careful political calculation. The President probably doesn’t want to admit that there are downsides to government-run health care. If such abuses can take place under the direction of one government entity, why not under another?The VA scandal has the potential to be more than just a PR defeat for the Administration; it could be a blow to Obama’s signature legislation as well.