Dem lawmaker: Obama waited too long to address VA scandal

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) said President Obama should have publicly addressed the controversy over the Department of Veterans Affairs sooner than he did. 

On MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” Thursday, host Chuck Todd asked Gabbard if she agreed with people who said Obama, who spoke on the issue Wednesday, came out too late. 

“I agree with that," said Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran and captain in the Hawaii National Guard. "I think that he should have been out there long before but especially with this Phoenix issue.” 

A former doctor at the VA hospital in Phoenix alleges officials used a secret waiting list to make it seem like veterans were receiving medical appointments in a timely manner. As a result, as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for care, the whistleblower claims. 

Gabbard said there is “no excuse” for such behavior, and called it “absolutely unacceptable.”

She added, though, that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should remain in his post until an investigation of the alleged misconduct is completed.

“My concern is if we fire Shinseki without the follow through, without understanding what needs to happen, then everyone will feel better and think that they did something, but veterans will still continue to suffer,” she said.

Gabbard argued the VA should be overhauled because the agency is “too big.” 

From the White House briefing room on Wednesday, Obama said people would be held accountable if the allegations are true. Obama met with Shinseki and White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors before making his remarks.

The president assigned Nabors to oversee the VA’s internal review. Nabors flew to Phoenix late Wednesday to visit the VA hospital there. 

Obama said he expects to receive the initial results from the internal probe next week. The full investigation is slated to be completed in June.