CNN reporter Jake Tapper on Friday went after the White House who has been defending Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinkseki over his handling of the Veterans Administration hospitals scandals across the nation that has resulted in the deaths of several veterans, Front Page Magazine reported.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough kept defending the record of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinkseki but it came to a point when Tapper became troubled with the constant excuses from the White House and said, “How many dead veterans do you need?”
In the interview with McDonough, Tapper said, “We all appreciate his service, but how on earth can the president have full confidence in him? People died.”
McDonough replies, “The fact of these deaths is an outrage to the president. He's made that clear. And you heard what General Shinseki had to say today. He's mad as hell about this. Nobody is more mad than the present. And I have the scars to show it, given his reaction to it as he and I have talked about it. But Ric Shinseki has dedicated his life to the armed forces of the United States, to the defense of this country…and he has shown over the course of nearly six years now his commitment to our veterans.”
“We have seen a dramatic expansion of 16 percent more vets into the health care system, 14 percent additional -- 14 percent increase in spending in the health care system….we have had a dramatic expansion of education benefits through the G.I. Bill, $40 billion for our vets, who have given us so much to make sure that they have the opportunity they deserve… and so Ric is going to get to the bottom of this. The president is demanding that, and that's exactly what we will do.”
“But this is what happened. There was a new order put out by Shinseki saying that any new applicants to the VA for primary care need to be seen within 14 days. And a lot of critics wondered at the time if the VA was capable of that,” Tapper said “And what all of these VA hospitals, one we know of others that we suspect, is they cooked the books. That was under Shinseki. I'm not saying he didn't do other good things. But that was under him. People didn't tell him the truth, didn't tell his underlings the truth. Why is he not held accountable for it?”
McDonough shot back and said, “He holds himself to account. And you saw him go before Congress to ask a very… a series of very difficult questions. But you also see him travel the country every day to talk to vets and their families. He holds himself accountable to his men and women with whom he served, whom he led for decades.”
“But, Denis, senators say there's ample evidence that federal crimes may have been committed,” Tapper said. “Senator Blumenthal said we need to bring in the FBI to make sure that no evidence is destroyed. Why is the Justice Department sitting on the sidelines on this?”
Tapper held up a letter that was sent to President Obama in May 2013 by Congressman Miller and that his office got no response from Obama. Tapper said the letter was referred to General Shinseki, who, according to them, sent back a boilerplate response and that this is a year ago he was warning about this.
After showing the letter, Tapper said, “How many stories like this, how many letters like this, how many dead veterans do you need before somebody asks the question within the White House, maybe this guy isn't the best steward of these veterans?”
“The question, Jake, is, are we doing everything we can every day to get the veterans the care and the opportunities that they deserve?” McDonough said.
Tapper went straight to the point and replied, “But you are not… this letter was sent a year ago. And you guys ignored it.”
The full exchange can be seen in the video above.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta VA Medical center rank number five nationally for death-related payouts and according to a report by, Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant found the case while digging through thousands of claims paid out by U.S. taxpayers.
In one incident, a veteran, Jerry Williams came to the Atlanta VA Medical center for treatment but subsequently died as doctors had removed both of his supposedly cancerous kidneys but Williams did not have cancer.
The son, Scott Williams told Diamant that shortly after his father died, “This lady comes out to him and his mother and says, ‘Y'all are going to sue the hospital, aren't you?' And we're like, “What are you talking about?”
Diamant said he found the case after the Channel 2 Action News investigative unit filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the Department of Veterans Affairs, then poured through a database of every malpractice case the agency lost or settled between 2000 and 2012.