May 23 - During an interview with CBS anchor Charlie Rose, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stressed the seriousness of the VA controversy and said someone must be held accountable after the facts are gathered. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks about the Veterans Affairs controversy, after officials at VA medical facilities in Phoenix were accused of covering up long wait times for patients, including 40 who died while awaiting care. During an interview with CBS anchor Charlie Rose, Hagel said, "It's a zero tolerance kind of thing. I mean you really have to come at it that way." The number of U.S. Veterans Affairs facilities being investigated for problems involving delays in treating patients has more than doubled to 26, CNN reported on Tuesday. The network cited the VA's Office of Inspector General, adding that the inspector general told a Senate committee last week there were 10 facilities under investigation. VA officials could not be reached for immediate comment. The allegations that delays in treatment at veterans' hospitals could have led to otherwise preventable deaths has sparked a growing political scandal, including calls for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday he is "getting closer" to asking Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, saying he is still unconvinced that this would solve the agency's problems. But during the interview Hagel said, "I support Secretary Shinseki. I've known him a long time. This is an individual who has a responsibility, as he has said, to be accountable." Continuing on the topic Hagel posed the questions of who should be held accountable; "Why did this happen? How was it allowed to happen? Who's accountable? Somebody's got to be accountable here." Shinseki told the lawmakers he was "mad as hell" about allegations of schemes to mask waiting times for care at VA facilities, but said the VA would wait for its inspector general to complete its investigation before acting on the Phoenix allegations.