Amid a growing scandal, new documents indicate that the Obama administration’s transition team was warned about problems at the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs before the president took power in 2009.
News of the scandal broke last month when it was revealed that at least 40 veterans died while waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, according to CNN. Since then, allegations have been leveled against the VA that it has misreported actual wait times for veterans seeking treatment within the massive bureaucracy.
Three audits, obtained by The Washington Times through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that problems at the VA extended back to the administration of President George W. Bush but they remained unresolved even after the Obama transition team was told about them in late 2008.
The audits reveal significant problems with wait times and scheduling dating back to 2005. One of the more troubling revelations of these audits is that while the VA reported only 2,900 veterans waited more than a month for a medical appointment, the auditors found that the number was closer to 28,000.
“Through a series of audits, the [VA Office of Inspector General] has repeatedly demonstrated that [the Veterans Health Administration] reported wait times could not be relied upon and the electronic waiting lists were not complete,” read one report to the Obama transition team.
Wait times are a factor that is considered when determining bonuses for VA officials.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified before a Senate committee on the matter last week.
"I'm here to accomplish a mission," he said during his testimony, according to CNBC. "Over the past five years, we've done a lot to make it better. We're not done yet.”
His assurances that the department continues to work on the problem have done little to silence calls for his resignation.
President Obama says Shinseki has put his “heart and soul” into caring for America’s veterans, but promises that there would be accountability for any problems.
Shinseki met with the president at the White House Wednesday morning. According to the Associated Press, he told the president that if he feels he cannot do a good job to fix the problems, he will no longer be interested in serving as VA secretary.