Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski said Thursday he's "mad as hell" over allegations of wrongdoing at
As the crisis at the VA deepens, President
One Democratic senator suggested potential criminal wrongdoing amid claims that VA workers manipulated the appointments system to cover up excessive wait times, and said the
Shinseki sought patience from the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee as he awaits the review into as many as 40 deaths that may have resulted from long waits for treatment at the Phoenix VA facility and other problems in as many as 10 cities nationwide. He showed no sign of stepping down.
The secretary said he intends to "provide care for the people I went to war with. I'm here to accomplish a mission I think they critically deserve and need," the
Senators, though, appeared unsatisfied with what they characterized as long-running systemic problems throughout the veterans' healthcare system that makes more than 236,000 appointments a day and operates 150 centers across the nation.
Several senators, from both sides of the political aisle, detailed stories of repeated reports from their states and others of long wait times, dating back several years.
"There's no gray area," said Sen.
"Clearly this problem has gone on far too long," said Sen.
The Republican chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee has asked Obama to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the problems, as lawmakers raise concerns that the department's inspector general's office may not have the resources needed.
Shinseki testified for more than an hour as the committee chairman, Sen.
But in many cases, Shinseki appeared unaware of specific problems senators cited. He noted that his removal of three offiicals from the Phoenix facility was not solely his decision, but was made on the recommendation of the inspector general.
When asked directly by Sanders, the Vermont independent, if VA officials were "cooking the books," the secretary demurred.