WWL>Topics>>5-30-14 10:15am President Obama press conference

5-30-14 10:15am President Obama press conference

May 30, 2014|

President Barack Obama's press conference about the resignation of VA chief Eric Shinseki.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Few minutes ago sectors and second rob neighbors who have temporarily assigned to work with the VA. Presented me with the department's initial review. VA facilities nationwide. And what they found is that the misconduct has not been limited to -- view the VA facilities. But many across the country. It's totally unacceptable. Our veterans deserve the best. They've earned it. Last week I said that if we found misconduct there would be punished and I meant it. Sectors and psyche has now begun the process of firing many people responsible including senior leaders at the Phoenix BA. He's canceled any possible performance bonuses this year for VH -- it senior executives. And he has order the VA to personally contact every veteran in Phoenix waiting for appointments to get them the care that they need. And that they deserve. This morning I think some of you also heard Rick. Take it truly remarkable action. In public remarks he took responsibility for the conduct of those so it's. And apologized to his fellow veterans and to the American people. And a few minutes ago circulation sector are for me his own resignation. With considerable threat. I accepted. -- -- has served his country would honor for nearly fifty years. He did two tours of combat in Vietnam. -- better than what department himself on the battlefield. He rose to command. The first cavalry division. Served as army chief of staff. And has never been afraid to speak truth to power. The secretary of the day he presided over record investments in our veterans. In rolling two million veterans and health care. Delivering disability pay him more Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Making it easier for veterans. What posttraumatic stress. Mental health issues and traumatic brain injury to get treatment. Improving care for all women veterans. That same time he helped reduce veteran homelessness. And help more than one million veterans service members and their families pursue their education. Under the post nine elevenths GI bill. So -- commitment. To our veterans. Is on question. The service for country. Is exemplary. I am grateful. For his service as are many veterans across the country. He has worked hard to investigate and identify the problems with access to care. We're told this morning the VA needs new leadership. To address. He does not want to be a distraction because his priority is to fix the problem and make sure bets are getting the care that they need. That was -- judgment on behalf of his fellow veterans. And I agree we don't have time for distractions. We need to fix the problem. For now. The leader that will help move us forward is Sloan Gibson we'll take on the range is acting secretary. Sloan became deputy secretary at the VA just three months ago but he too has devoted his life to serving our country and our veterans. His grandfather fought on the front lines of World War I. His father was tail Gunner in World War II. -- graduated from West Point earned his airborne ranger qualifications and served in the infantry. Most recently he was president and CEO of the USO. Which does a remarkable job supporting our men and women at war -- families. Our wounded warriors and families of the fall. So all told Sloan has forty years of private sector and nonprofit experience that he brings to bear. Our ongoing work to build a 21 century -- and I am grateful that he is willing to take on this task. I met with Sloan after -- -- with -- this morning and made it clear that reform should not wait. They need to proceed immediately. I've also asked rob -- to stay at the VA temporarily to helps long and the department through this transition. And complete his own review. The BH. In the meantime we're gonna look diligently for a new permanent VA secretary and we hope to confirm that successor to fill that post this in response. We're gonna do right by our veterans across the board. As long as it takes. -- stopped working to make sure that they get here to benefit and got through newspaper of and they deserve. I said we won't tolerate misconduct and we wanna. Assert that we have to do better and we will. They're too many veterans receiving care right now who deserve all of our best efforts and an honest assessment if something is not what. And as we go visit some are men and women in uniform at different stages of their service. Our north's army officers who graduated from West Point. For troops currently serving in Afghanistan. Our veterans our military cameras at Arlington. When I saw. As -- seen and every single service member veteran military spouse I've had the privilege to me. Selfless. Clear commitment to serving their country the best way that they now. They're the best that our country -- off. They do their duty. They expect us to do worse. So today I want every man and woman who served under our flag tomorrow. Will be your tour. Has been over for decades or is just about to end. We will never stop working to do right by you and your friends. Well it's a couple questions. Reassuring for military. What's changed here you know separations and few days usually do I call him he knew coming in today so it's. It's time for retirement -- -- -- be different over here. -- judgment. I think his belief that. He would be a distraction from the task at hand. Which is to make sure that. What's broken gets facts so that. His fellow veterans are getting the services that they made. I want to reiterate. He is a very good me I don't just mean is an accomplished man I don't just mean that he's been an outstanding soldier. He's a good person. Who's done exemplary work. On -- -- And under his leadership. We have seen. More progress. On more fronts at the VA and a bigger investment. In the VA. And just about any other VA secretary. Cut reverence almost seems like 24%. Brought in. Folks who have been exposed. Agent Orange through have been waiting for decades. To get the services and benefits -- better. Making sure event. Posttraumatic stress disorder. -- brain injury was dealt with a serious way of making sure we had facilities for all women vets who all too often. Were receiving. The kind of specialized services. That they needed. So he's been a champion. Our veterans. And where there's problems he has been ready and willing to get in there and fixed so where the disability backlog that had. Shot up as a consequence of that mission of the Agent Orange. Veterans as well us making it easier to apply for posttraumatic stress disorder a disability claims. When it spiked. He went out in the systematic way we've now cut it by 50%. Over the course of last year or so. He's not adverse to admitting where there's a problem. In going after. But. That we occupy. Not just a an environment that calls for. Management fixes. We've also got a deal with congress and you guys and I think it it bricks. Judgment that he could not. Carry out the next stages of reform. Without being a distraction themselves and so. In my assessment was unfortunately but he was right. I regret that. -- to resign under these circumstances but I also have confidence in Sloan and I share. Rich and -- his assessment that the number one priority. Is making sure the problems get fixed so that if there's a veteran out there who needs help but they're getting a schedule. And -- be able to competency of doctor. And that if their facilities that don't have enough doctors or to not have enough nurses or do not have enough space. That that information immediately gets in the hands of decision makers. All the way up to me and all the way to congress so that we can get more resources in there. To help folks. And that seems to be that the biggest problem I think that's the thing that offended. -- -- second most during the course of this process. -- you describe to mere fact that. When he was in fear. He might have to order to attack just based on a phone call from. Some twenty something year old corporal. And he's got to trust that he's getting good information and it's life -- -- And I think is deeply do disappointed in the fact that bad news did not get too. And that. The structures weren't in place for him to identify this problem quickly. And fix it. His priority now to make sure that happens. And he felt like new leadership would be. Would serve our veterans best and I agree with. -- -- -- he's clearly state this sectors. Is that since it was criminal wrongdoing and I guess more broadly. What responsibility do you personally where this has been an -- campaigned -- and care about -- security interior ministry. Were at this point. Well. I will leave it up to the Justice Department to make determinations in terms of whether there's been criminal wrongdoing. In terms of responsibility as I've said before. -- my administration I always take responsibility. For whatever happens and this is an area that I have a particular concern with this. Predates my presidency when I was in the senate I was on the veterans. Affairs committee. I heard firsthand veterans who were not getting. The kinds of services and benefits that they -- -- And I pledged that if I had the privilege of serving as commander in chief and president that we would fix it. The VA is a big organization that. Has had problems for a very long time in some cases management problems in some cases funding problems. And so what we try to do is to systematically go after the problems that we were aware of and -- in where we have seen. Our veterans are being properly served. Whether it was too many homeless veterans. Or a disability claims process that was taking too long we would go at it. And chip away at it affects. When it came to funding. We've increased funding for VA services. In on president fashion because we understood that. It's not enough just to give lip service. To our veterans. But not be won't put our money where my office and so. What I can say confidently. Is that this has been a priority it's been a priority reflected in my budget. And that in terms of managing the VA where we have seen a problem when where we have been aware of a problem. We have gone after and fixed it. And they have been able to make significant progress. But what is absolutely clear is this one. This issue of scheduling. Is one that. The reporting systems inside of VHA did not surface. To the level where Rick was aware of it. Or we were able to see it. This is not something that we were hearing when I was traveling around the country the particular issue of schedule. And what we're gonna have to -- further review is gonna have to be -- how do we make sure that we get. Information about systems that are working just was talking to rob -- he's described to me for example distant and very specific detail. How in some of these facilities you've got. Computer systems for scheduling debate back to. The nineties. The situations in which one schedule or might have to look at. 45 different screens to figure out where there's a slot and were there might be a doctor bill. Situations in which they're manually passing. Requests for an appointment. Over to somebody else who's been important rights -- you have. In many cases old system's broken down systems this is stuff that is imminently fixable. But. We've got to know and the big concern that I got and what I'm going to be interest in finding out is. How. Is it that. In a number of these facilities. If in fact you have veterans were waiting too long for an appointment. That that information to insert the sooner so we could go and fix it one last point I wanna make on this. When veterans have gotten access to these system the health care itself that they are receiving. Has gotten high marks from our veterans service organizations in the veterans themselves. So I think it's important keep in mind that. What the review indicates so far at least is that. There have been great strides made in the actual care provided to veterans. The challenge is getting veterans into the door particularly. For the first appointment in some cases and where they don't have an established relationship with a doctor. And they're not in the system. Part of that's going to be technology. Part of that is management. But as Erica -- second self indicated. There is -- need for a change in culture within the VH area. And perhaps the DH is a hole or the BA as a whole. That make sure that bad news gets. Surfaced quickly so that. Things can be fixed and I know that was the attitude of the sector -- second that was for what he communicated. To folks. Under. The -- Mexican and that's -- Chris Parsons last question. You sent general judgment. I made that decision for you here and I remember correctly secretary Sebelius offered him her resignation for health care -- And you declined to take. I wonder -- there's a little bit scapegoating taking place here this. Meaning -- I mean that there -- dysfunction within the department seems to have been very deeply and very wide spread so it is. -- mopping up ahead of it really. The best to -- going forward here is their I'd let me ask you is there a political reasons for removing. Father and go straight to the top twelve here. The distractions that -- refers to -- a political. He needs to be. At this stage what I want is somebody. At the VA was not spending time. Outside of solving problems for the veterans. I want somebody spending every minute of every day figuring out -- we called every single veteran that's waiting. Have they gotten a schedule. Are we fixing the system. What kind of new technology doing. Have we made a realistic assessment of how long the wait times are right now. And how are we gonna bring those wait times down. In certain facilities where we're at times are too -- if we need more money. How much more money do we need to ask from congress. And how I got to make sure that congress delivers. On that additional fund. That's what I want somebody of the VA focused on. Not. -- day. Getting second guessed and speculation about their futures and so forth and so on and that was what Richard -- -- as well. -- respective sectors -- at the time I thought it would be a distraction. To replace. Somebody -- At a time when we're trying to fix that system. And I want to just stay focused because I knew that if we. Bear down on -- and we got folks -- to work. So it in each instance. My primary. Decision is based on how can I deliver. Service to the American people and in this case how can I deliver. For our veterans and because they are people of integrity I think in both the cases of secretary Sebelius but certainly in the case here -- consecutive. They've got the same -- bear -- view is what is it that is gonna best deliver. On behalf of folks who as Rick said this morning have been let down. You felt she had. So much knowledge about what had gone wrong that I couldn't afford to lose that right to somebody with three months in leadership at the department have. Think capacity to -- attack the problem quickly. Well we're gonna meeting new VA secretary so loans at -- Sloan is acting. A Sloan I think would be the first to acknowledge that he's gonna have learning curve that he's got to deal with. But the nature of the problem that has surfaced and is has been the cause of this attention. Is one that we can start tackling right away and without. Completely transforming the system we can immediately. Make some progress we're gonna have some longer term issues we're gonna have to take care so. My first step is everybody who's out there waiting. To get him an appointment. If we need more doctors. Let's figure out how we can -- and doctors are there to make sure that they're there to help that they need. What I wanna make sure than it is that. Even if it's still patch work how we make sure. That there's no slippage between somebody making a phone call and then getting an appointment schedule and what's very realistic time or -- -- they're gonna get an appointment. Those are things. That don't require rocket science it requires execution. There of course discipline that requires focus those things this won't pass. They're -- gonna be some broader issues that we're gonna have to tackle. The information systems inside the VH. Those are probably gonna have to be changed that will cost some money that will take some time and we'll have to be implement. Having -- gonna have to be some changes in the culture within the DH day. Because as I said they're providing very good service. Medical treatment to our veterans when they get in the system. But they don't have apparently. The state of the art. Operations. That you would want to see for example of major medical center or hospital. And I keep in mind those of us were outside of the gates VA system and try to get an appointment with the doctor. In private sector and try to get an appointment. For. You know schedule for for hospital visit. Their price wait times as well so what part of what we have to do is figure out what are realistic benchmarks. For the system and my suspicion is that we have. Not only all the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan coming back but also. The aging of our Vietnam vets who. May have more chronic illnesses may need more visits. We may need to get more doctors and we may need to get more nurses and that's going to cost some money. Which means that's gonna have to be reflected. In. A veteran affairs budget which I have consistently increased. Even. During fiscally tight times there's been no carrier were put more priority than. Making sure that. We're deliver -- The kind of budget that's necessary to. Make sure veterans are being served but it may still not be enough and -- but before we start spending. More money our first job here's what's ticker some basic management issues that I think can be fixed -- right thank you.