By Ramsey Cox
The chairman of the Republican National Committee on Thursday demanded an independent investigation of at least 40 deaths at Veterans Affairs hospitals around the country.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus's comments came a day after President Obama appointed a White House official to look into the matter.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki defended his agency in testimony Thursday to a Senate panel.
Shinseki is facing calls for his resignation after reports that VA hospitals falsified records to make it appear their claims backlog wasn't as bad as it seems. This has reportedly resulted in the deaths of at least 40 veterans in Phoenix.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said senators needed to “get to the bottom of it.”
“It’s our job as senators to get to the bottom of it. We need to ask the tough questions. We need to uncover the truth,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. “Any misconduct found at VA hospitals should be met with swift punishment, and administration officials need to be held accountable.”
McConnell said because the VA claims backlog has been a problem for years, he fears it is a systemic crisis.
“The questions awaiting the Secretary will be tough, but this is his job: The American people are demanding — and deserve — answers,” McConnell said. “One thing I will be listening for today is whether or not Secretary Shinseki states a belief that the VA is facing a systemic crisis.”
McConnell said Obama should treat this as seriously as he did the roll out of the ObamaCare website.
“If the president is truly serious, he needs to treat these stories at least as seriously as he did the ObamaCare website fiasco,” McConnell said. “When he pledged his complete attention and the full force of his administration to do whatever needed to be done. … Incredibly, so far the president has made no such pledge when it comes to the treatment of our veterans.
“The president needs to understand that our veterans deserve at least as much attention as a website.”