Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs were “absolutely reprehensible,” and said there was ample blame to go around.
As chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Sanders was responsible for oversight of the troubled agency, which is dealing with long lines for services and fudged numbers to hide problems. Sanders said the entire department was a “very difficult bureaucracy.”
The scandal surrounding the department led to Friday’s resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Sanders said Shinseki was tasked with overseeing a difficult agency already plagued with problems when he came aboard in 2009.
“When Shinseki came in, after the Bush administration, they were processing a million claims a year in paper,” he said. “They didn't have a electronic system.”
Sanders did not identify a specific person to replace Shinseki, but said whoever it is must have healthcare expertise, as well as an ability to manage a system that treats 6.5 million veterans.
Sanders also discussed the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Republicans have been critical of the administration’s decision to trade five Taliban detainees for Bergdahl's freedom. Several lawmakers have griped they did not receive enough notice, and questioned the decision to allow several detainees to be set free in exchange for the lone American prisoner of war, who had been held captive for five years.
Sanders did not go quite so far, but hit a note of caution.
“We need to have more information about the long-term consequences, and do everything that we can to make sure that these terrorists do not get back onto the battlefield,” he said.