By Justin Sink - 05/15/14 05:32 PM EDT
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Thursday he has "the scars" to prove how angry President Obama is over allegations that veterans died while waiting for care at Veterans Affairs hospitals.
"The fact of these deaths is an outrage to the president. He's made that clear," McDonough told CNN. "And you heard what General [Eric] Shinseki had to say today. He's mad as hell about this. Nobody is more mad than the president. And I have the scars to show it, given his reaction to it as he and I have talked about it."
Still, the top Obama aide came to the defense of the embattled Veterans Affairs secretary, saying Shinseki was "going to get to the bottom of this."
On Wednesday, the White House announced Obama was ordering Rob Nabors, his deputy chief of staff, to oversee a review of the VA’s patient safety rules and appointment procedures.
According to internal documents acquired by CNN, managers at a hospital in Phoenix created a secret wait list to hide the lengths to which sick veterans had to wait to see a doctor. Similar schemes were reported at other hospitals across the country, in a bid to hide violations of VA rules requiring timely care for former service members.
Republicans have seized on the allegations to slam the administration, with House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) saying he raised concerns over the VA's conduct in a letter to the White House last year.
McDonough sidestepped questions about why the White House did not respond, saying only that the administration had "been working aggressively to ensure that not only is healthcare expanded, opportunities made more ready to our vets, but that people are held to account."