By Martin Matishak - 01/06/15 03:40 PM EST
Sen. John McCainJohn McCainPoll: Trump gets 1 percent support among black voters Cutting corners in a federal campaign is criminal Bush World goes for Clinton, but will a former president? MORE (R-Ariz.) wants President Obama to stop by the Veterans Affairs facility that was ground zero in the scandal over patient wait times when he visits Arizona later this week.
He pointed out that the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center is “just a mile” from Central High School, where Obama “plans to promote his failed economic agenda” on Thursday.
“I urge the president to take time during his trip this week to visit the Phoenix VA to begin to restore our veterans’ confidence in it, and demonstrate his commitment to fully reforming the VA system which has too often failed them,” McCain said.
The Arizona lawmaker, himself a Vietnam veteran, wasn’t alone in urging Obama to visit the troubled facility.
“If President Obama wanted to get the on-the-ground truth — and send a signal of strong leadership — he would take the time to visit the Phoenix VA hospital during his forthcoming trip to that neighborhood,” Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, said in a statement.
An investigation last May found that veterans had waited an average of 115 days for initial appointments in Phoenix, and 40 people had died waiting to see a doctor. However, officials could not conclusively link the deaths to the long wait times.
Last November the VA fired Sharon Helman, who served as the director of the agency’s healthcare system in Phoenix at the time. That action was upheld in December by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday said that the president isn’t planning to visit the hospital while in Arizona.
“I don't believe at this point that that's something that he's planning to do,” he told reporters, noting that Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald's first trip as VA chief was to the facility.
“There have been substantial operational reforms in place that are ensuring that the needs of the veterans in Phoenix are being better met by the medical facility there,” Earnest said.
“So we're pleased with the pace of reforms that have been put in place. … It’s clear that there is more that needs to be done not just in Phoenix but at medical facilities all across the country,” he added.