Rep. Duckworth 'not surprised' about VA

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who served at the Department of Veterans Affairs, says she’s “not surprised” by the recent allegations facing the agency.

"I’m not surprised because it’s such a large network that you’re going to find problems," Duckworth told The Washington Post in an interview on Monday.

Duckworth, who was elected to Congress in 2012, served as assistant secretary at the VA from 2009 until 2011. She is an Iraq War veteran and a double amputee. The congresswoman also ran Illinois’s Veterans’ Affairs Department.  

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She suggested officials in Washington are not sufficiently plugged into the operations at VA facilities around the country.

"There is, I think, a lack of a sense of accountability almost to central office," or to top officials in Washington, including Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, she said. 

Duckworth remembered situations in which officials in Washington learned through local news reports that veterans’ treatment was delayed at hospitals, or equipment was not sterilized properly. She said local VA officials “never told central office.”

"That was frustrating to me, because they were trying to deal with it locally, and it would be three, four or five months later. As soon as central office and Secretary Shinseki found out about it, we’d act on it immediately." 

Duckworth expressed support for Shinseki, who is facing calls from some lawmakers to step down.

"I think he should fix it,” she said. “I’m not putting trying to put words in his mouth here, but I would think that he would want to fix it.”

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