Sen. McCain: 'We should all be ashamed'

A week before Memorial Day, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is railing against the Obama administration for its treatment of veterans.

In the weekly Republican address on Saturday, McCain accused the Veterans Affairs Department of “egregious mismanagement and scheduling delays” behind claims that some facilities tried to hide how long veterans were forced to wait before receiving care. 

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“No one should be treated this way in a country as great as ours,” he said. “But treating those to whom we owe the most so callously – so ungratefully – is unconscionable, and we should all be ashamed.” 

McCain, a Vietnam veteran, called for congressional action to restructure the VA so that it can refocus on “its core mission of serving veterans” and give more power to administrators to hire and fire caregivers.

“Clearly, the VA is suffering from a systemic, cultural problem that Congress cannot resolve with piecemeal responses,” he said.

He added that a shakeup is necessary “so that on some future Memorial Day, as we celebrate the beginning of summer and the comforts of life in a safe and successful country, we need not bow our heads in shame, but only in gratitude for the sacrifice made to keep it so.”

Last month, reports emerged that at least 40 veterans died while waiting for care at a Phoenix, Ariz., VA hospital.

Even though it had been weeks since those allegations, McCain said the administration “has failed to respond in an effective manner. 

“This has created in our veterans’ community a crisis of confidence toward the VA – the very agency that was established to care for them,” he added.

Since the first cases in Phoenix, reports of similar negligence have come out of other VA offices across the country. 

McCain noted instances where poor oversight and shady management at VA offices in Wyoming and Georgia led to delays in care or veterans who committed suicide.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told a Senate panel earlier this week that he was “made as hell” about the allegations, but so far has refused to resign despite mounting pressure from lawmakers. 

On Friday, the VA’s undersecretary for health, Robert Petzel, stepped down from his post.