- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2016

A top House Republican said Monday that the Department of Veterans Affairs is hiding behind a “litany of excuses” instead of improving health care for veterans.

House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, said VA officials “haven’t learned much from the wait-time scandal that shook VA to its foundations and forced the resignation of former Secretary Eric Shinseki” in 2014.

“Unfortunately, it seems the same sort of attitude that created the VA scandal is still alive and well within the department,” Mr. Miller wrote in an op-ed for InsideSources.com. “VA leaders have adopted the puzzling strategy of downplaying and making excuses for instances of employee misconduct that every objective observer knows are abhorrent.”

He pointed to recent comments by VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, who criticized some media coverage for creating a false impression that veterans seeking care would encounter “some lazy, corrupt bureaucrat who doesn’t care a whit.” Mr. Miller said those comments “are a remarkable rhetorical about-face” for Mr. Gibson after earlier complaining about the agency’s culture that led to problems with delayed care.

The VA’s inspector general has founded that 293 veterans died awaiting care at VA facilities in Phoenix, with scores of other such cases nationwide. But Mr. Miller said the VA has fired fewer than 10 employees for issues related to wait times.

“Let that sink in. VA bureaucrats at 40 locations were manipulating data to hide long waits for care, 316 veterans died and yet VA has only successfully fired fewer than 10 people for these issues,” Mr. Miller said. “It’s obvious that until those who caused the VA scandal are removed from the department’s payroll, efforts to reform the department will never succeed.”

The lawmaker said the Obama administration can’t fix the problem because the VA too often is “content to simply make excuses — often excruciatingly bad ones — for their misbehavior.”

“Veterans are depending on VA for solutions to the department’s most pressing problems,” Mr. Miller said. “There is simply no excuse for VA’s litany of excuses regarding employees who can’t or won’t do their jobs.”

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