Washington - The Veterans Affairs committee in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted Thursday to take veterans affairs secretary Eric Shin Shinseki to task over deadly delays in providing healthcare to veterans at some VA hospitals.
At Tuesday's press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama takes seriously the allegations that veterans died waiting for care at the Phoenix VA hospital, He repeated that the VA's inspector general is conducting an independent investigation into the allegations.
Republicans say that allowing the VA to investigate itself is not good enough and a congressional investigation is warranted because many veterans have allegedly died while waiting for VA medical treatment.
At the center of the Congressional investigation is a discrepancy between VA officials in Phoenix and doctors at a VA hospital there. VA officials claim there is no deadly secret waiting list for veterans, some of who died awaiting care, while doctors say those officials are lying. The House investigative committee has convened to determine whether veterans are dying while awaiting medical treatments that may have saved their lives at VA facilities.
Doctors claim VA facility records at some hospitals made it seem as though critically ill patients were receiving treatment when they were not.
Monday, the American Legion, the nation's largest veteran organization, and another veterans group, Concerned Veterans for America, called for Shinseki's resignation.
Network and cable news organizations have dogged the administration for months over allegations that as many as 40 U.S. veterans died after languishing on secret waiting lists at VA hospitals around the country.
Meanwhile, the administration has raised the ire of Republicans by stone-walling oversight committees and withholding documents in various oversight investigations while insisting department heads appointed by Mr. Obama are handling investigations of their own departments. Department heads, in most cases, have kept their jobs or been transferred to other jobs at similar pay rates.
Congress is sworn by federal law to investigate wrongdoing and shortcomings in government departments in its role as the ultimate oversight committee. However, the Senate and Democrats in the House have been reluctant to, or refused to participate in oversight hearings viewed as an embarrassment to the administration.
Examples include the deadly Benghazi Embassy attack, a failed federal gunrunning operation called “Fast and Furious” and the IRS scandal that saw nonprofit groups with Republican-leanings receive extra scrutiny and delays leading up to last year’s presidential election.
Borrowing language used by the Clinton Administration when then-President Bill Clinton denied having sexual relations with young White House aide Monica Lewinsky, Shinseki reportedly said he works for the president and needed to get back to work.
"I serve at the pleasure of the president," Shinseki told the newspaper when asked whether he would step down. "I signed on to make some changes. I have work to do."
Senate democrats and the Obama administration have for the most part painted Republican-led investigations as partisan politics while refusing to participate in most house oversight investigations.
Democrats, especially incumbent Senate candidates, fear that boycotting the VA investigation could have consequences. If Democrats are seen as undermining the medical treatment of wounded American troops, political pundits say Democrats could experience a significant political backlash.
The American people, unlike during the Vietnam War, hold the U.S. military in great esteem and understand the troops are warriors who answer the call and make the ultimate sacrifices for their country, regardless of political stripe. They realize our troops are battered by over-deployment and their families are emotionally and economically torn apart from multiple separations.
With Russia threatening war against Eastern Europe, tens of thousands of US troops still in Afghanistan and our military being deployed to Africa, many fear American troops could be stretched too thin if war breaks out.
Subsequently, any notion that the federal government is unwilling to care for our troops at home could hurt Democrats more than Republicans since Republicans are leading the VA oversight investigation.
On the other hand, if Democrats break with the White House and participate in the bipartisan VA investigation it could help slow Republican momentum and limit their potential losses in November.