We noted yesterday that the president’s speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention was promptly undercut by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. He wasn’t the only Cabinet member to contradict the president.
On Wednesday the House Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services Committees held a joint hearing. Afterwards, the Veterans’ Affairs Committee issued a news release, which read in part:
[T]he Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, confirmed that under sequestration, VA would face cuts, possibly affecting the administration of veterans’ benefits and services, stating, “VA is exempt from sequestration except for administrative costs… I don’t have a definition of administrative costs right now.”
President Obama publicly said Monday at the VFW Convention that VA is exempt from sequestration, yet the Secretary conceded today that VA would face cuts early next year if a sequester takes place,” stated Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Since last August, I have been asking this question and until today, I have received nothing but double speak. I am now demanding that VA and the President define ‘administrative costs.’ Does this mean closing veterans’ hospitals, fewer claims processors to help veterans with their disability compensation, longer wait times for veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war or those having to bury a loved one, not to mention the possible impact on homeless veterans’ programs and research to care for our wounded warriors? Congress, and more important, our veterans, deserve an honest, straight-forward answer. . . . [O]ver the next five years, there is the potential for one million serving men and women to either leave military service or demobilize from active duty,” raising numerous questions on the already convoluted transition process for veterans.
Wait times for the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, which assists wounded warriors transition from DoD to VA, are already at record highs, the disability claims backlog has tripled in the past four years, and a majority of veterans seeking mental health evaluations wait an average of two months for an appointment. . . .
Miller said: “American know-how put a man on the moon in less than a decade, but 50 years later we can’t produce single electronic medical database for our military and veterans in the same span of time? There is clearly something wrong with this system, and the time has come to see real change and real results.”
President Obama isn’t the only president to experience the bureaucratic mess at the VA that ill-serves our vets. But he’s brought up the issue, bragging about his record and claiming the VA won’t be hard hit by upcoming sequestration cuts.
Maybe someone should ask him or his hapless spokesman if his Cabinet secretaries are wrong or if he is. This appears to be another instance in which Obama’s chest puffing and his actions don’t match up.