Boehner: VA scandal 'worse' than we know?

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBipartisanship has become a partisan weapon The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez What's a party caucus chair worth? MORE (R-Ohio) suggested the problems surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs are "worse than what we know."

"I don’t want to get too far out front with what the cure is until I understand how bad the disease is," he told The Columbus Post Dispatch on Saturday. He added, “I don’t know how bad it is, but my sense is, it’s worse than what we know.”

The Speaker also floated the idea of privatizing the department, according to the paper.


He said he recommended the plan more than 20 years ago and "I still like the idea, and especially now."

No details were offered, however.

About 10 percent of VA healthcare costs are already spent at private hospitals and the administration announced Saturday that it would allow more veterans to get care through private facilities, according to The Associated Press.

The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) had called on the administration to take the step earlier in the week. 

The department also announced it is attempting to expand access at VA facilities. When officials cannot increase capacity at VA centers, veterans would be able to seek treatment through private facilities. 

The department is facing criticism of long wait times for veterans and some facilities are accused of falsifying reports to make it appear veterans received care faster than they did. 

Reports last month suggested nearly 40 veterans died while on a secret wait list at a Phoenix VA clinic, though it is not clear if the deaths were a result of the long wait time. Since then, allegations of similar mismanagement have surfaced around the country and the inspector general is investigating 26 facilities. 

Boehner has so far resisted calling for the ouster of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki despite numerous calls from other Republicans and a few Democrats. Earlier this week, Boehner said he was getting "closer to" the possibility. He appeared to back away from that in the interview. 

“The reason I threw cold water on the idea is, it’d be the easy way out to get rid of the secretary,” he said. “He’d resign, we’d wait for months and months, someone else would be nominated, then cleared, then they’re brand new, and I think it just takes people’s eye off getting to the bottom of the problems.”