- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2015

Visiting the Phoenix VA hospital where the veterans’ health-care scandal began, President Obama said Friday that veterans shouldn’t allow “a few bad apples” to cause them to lose sight of improvements to the system.

“Just the fact that there have been a few bad apples, mistakes that have been made, systems that aren’t designed to get the job done, I don’t want that to detract from the outstanding work being done by a lot of people inside this organization,” Mr. Obama said after a closed-door meeting with VA managers and other officials.

The visit was Mr. Obama’s first at the facility where reports surfaced nearly a year ago of secret wait lists and delayed care for veterans. The president announced the creation of a new advisory committee to help the VA improve its customer service.

But a veterans’ group said some advocates of reform were shut out of the discussions Friday.

“Most of the same VA executives responsible for the Phoenix VA wait-list scandal are still employed there,” said Concerned Veterans for America legislative director Dan Caldwell.

House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, said the creation of an advisory committee “misses the mark” and that the VA should start fixing its problems by firing the employees responsible for the secret wait lists.

Mr. Obama said he has a new team, including VA Secretary Bob McDonald, “to make sure that wait times for scheduling [and] access to providers is greatly improved.”

“But what we know is there is still more work to do,” the president said.

Mr. Obama also promised to make veterans more aware of the private-sector care options available to them through the Choice Card program created last year. The VFW released a survey this month showing that nearly 80 percent of veterans eligible for the service had not been offered it.

“What I’ve committed to is making sure that we implement the CHOICE act promptly and effectively and that some of the concerns that have been raised are addressed,” Mr. Obama said.

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