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White House: Obama ‘has confidence’ in embattled VA Secretary Shinseki


Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki speaks with the media on Capitol Hill on May 15. (Cliff Owen/AP)

The White House said Monday that President Obama stands behind embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

"The president has confidence in Secretary Shinseki," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday.

Shinseki has been under fire after allegations that a hospital in Phoenix created a secret list to hide the fact that veterans had to wait months to access care. According to a CNN report, at least 40 patients died while waiting to see a doctor. Also, according to USA Today, a clinic in Fort Collins, Colo., faked records to make it appear as though doctors were seeing a certain number of patients each day. The allegations come on top of a backlog of disability claims at the VA.

Shinseki testified on Capitol Hill last week, saying he was "mad as hell" about the allegations and that he took the post to make things better for veterans. "This is not a job," he said. "I'm here to accomplish a mission."

The American Legion, the nation's largest veterans group, has called for Shinseki to resign.

Obama has not publicly spoken on the issue, though his chief of staff said Sunday that Obama is "madder than hell" about the allegations. He appointed a top adviser, Rob Nabors, to oversee a review of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

[posttv url="http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/national/white-house-president-is-not-at-all-pleased-over-va-allegations-but-will-wait-for-investigations-to-conclude/2014/05/21/0a2e181c-e05a-11e3-9442-54189bf1a809_video.html" ]

 

Carney said Monday that he is "sure you'll hear from" Obama on the issue soon.

It took three questions for Carney to say outright that Obama has confidence in Shinseki, a former Army chief of staff who has held the Veteran's Affairs post since 2008. Carney said Shinseki has "presided over a VA that has significantly increased the access that veterans have to disability claims," and has committed himself to finding solutions to the huge challenge the bourgeoning number of veterans presents to the country.

"There is no question a lot more work needs to be done, and Secretary Shinseki will be the first to tell you that," Carney said.

Carney said the White House is "eagerly awaiting" the results of the investigation into the department and said those who were accountable for the violations must be held as such, but it is too early to know.

"We are of the view that the kinds of allegations we have seen need to be investigated rigorously, and once we have all the facts, accountable individuals need to be held to account," Carney said.

When asked about a comment that Obama made on the campaign trail about delays and inadequate care at the VA, Carney said the president stands by assertions that the country needs to better address how to care for its veterans.

"He actively pursued significant increases in our budget for veterans’ care, substantially increasing the amount that we spend in order to take care of our veterans," Carney said.

Katie Zezima is a national political correspondent covering the 2016 presidential election. She previously served as a White House correspondent for The Post.

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