THE MEN and women who have served their country in uniform deserve better than delay or denial of the medical care they need and have earned. So it is crucial to get to the bottom of allegations of misconduct at the nation’s veterans hospitals. America’s veterans also deserve not to be treated as so many pawns in election-year gamesmanship — but that sadly is proving to be the case in Congress’s increasingly hyperbolic response.
President Obama made his first public comments Wednesday on the growing controversy surrounding allegations that workers at hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs manipulated data or created secret waiting lists to hide the delays that veterans faced before they could see a doctor. Most disturbing have been reports of people who died or were harmed while waiting for appointments and of internal memos detailing techniques to cover up problems.
Mr. Obama rightly expressed his concern: “I will not stand for it. Not as commander in chief, but also not as an American. None of us should.” He promised that people would be held accountable for any wrongdoing and any deficiencies would be addressed. At the same time, the president properly cautioned that the facts still have yet to be determined; investigation by the VA into a number of facilities and a broader White House review are underway, with preliminary reports expected next week.
That the extent of wrongdoing is unclear doesn’t seem to matter much to those more interested in scoring political points. How else to explain the knee-jerk calls, mainly by Republicans in the House and Senate, for the ouster of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki or the ill-advised and punitive legislation aimed at VA workers?