Inside Politics: Lawmakers question VA plans for more staff

Members of Congress expressed doubts Tuesday on plans by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ to hire 1,900 additional workers to improve access to mental health care.

Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House committee with jurisdiction over veterans’ issues, said the VA’s plans to beef up staffing looked like a knee-jerk reaction to a critical inspector general’s investigation that was in the works.

That investigation released two weeks ago found that nearly half of the veterans seeking mental health care for the first time waited about 50 days before getting a full evaluation. The VA had been reporting that the vast majority of evaluations were being conducted within 14 days.

Mr. Miller said the investigation also showed that the VA did not have reliable data to measure staffing needs.

“If VA doesn’t even have a complete picture of the problem, how confident can we be that access will be increased and care enhanced by the VA’s knee-jerk reaction,” Miller said during an oversight hearing. “This is not the first time we have been here.”

Developer Tim Toben testified at former Sen. John Edwards' campaign finance corruption trial Tuesday that in 2008 he warned the campaign of Barack Obama to look closely at rumors about Mr. Edwards' infidelity. (Associated Press)

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Developer Tim Toben testified at former Sen. John Edwards’ campaign finance corruption ... more >

VA officials insisted that the plans to hire more workers had been in the works for months. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said that the department’s hiring proposal was based mostly upon an increase in patients that has occurred in recent years, in part because the department had made it easier for veterans to submit disability claims for post-traumatic stress disorder.

WHITE HOUSE

Adviser: Cooperation led to bomb intercept

President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser says the discovery of a new plot to take down a U.S.-bound airliner shows al Qaeda remains a threat a year after Osama bin Laden’s death.

John Brennan told network morning news shows the discovery of another bomb designed to be worn in the attacker’s underwear resulted from “very close cooperation with our international partners.”

The Associated Press on Monday reported the CIA intercept of a bomb device, citing government officials. Mr. Brennan made appearances Tuesday morning on NBC’s “Today” show, ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning.”

On NBC, he said the “device and the bomber that would use it is no longer a threat.”

The device currently is being analyzed by the FBI, and Mr. Brennan said that al Qaeda remains very active in Yemen although it has been “degraded” in Pakistan.

NORTH CAROLINA

Edwards donor says Obama camp knew about affair

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