tv Newsmakers CSPAN May 25, 2014 6:00pm-6:31pm EDT
>> you have a sophisticated and granular take on the veterans department as anybody on the u.s. senate hearings. should the leader of the department, a retired general, eric shinseki be fired? >> no. the da is a huge institution -- a is a huge institution. everyone here has heard about the claims backlog. what people do not know is that under bush we did claims by paper. an individual veterans could ile this, multiply that by
thousands of veterans. i remember talking to eric when he was first hired. and he was saying at the end of five years we will have those claims down to 125 days with 90 per -- 90% accuracy. since he has been in office we have reduce that by 24%. since he has been in office we have reduced homelessness by 24%. think also of the wars in iraq and afghanistan, we have a huge increase of evil coming into the ba -- of people coming into he va. no one denies that there are problems. if you talk to the veterans organizations, we held a
hearing last week. the largest veterans organizations in the america, we asked if it is good quality health care, and without exception they said it is and it is getting better. i have criticisms options of shinseki, and i hope we will ddress that. i hope we can deal with that. but i don't think he should resign. >> a lot of veterans groups want him to resign. they want someone to blame this on. rsh who? > the v.a. is one of them. >> should federal workers be allowed to be able more easily dismissed? where is the blame? who should get what blame for
what problem? >> first of all, are there problems, yes. the report came out last year that estimated between 200000 and 400,000 people a year die in american hospitals because of medical mistakes. that is infection, giving wrong dosages of medicine, etc.. the point is, we are a big country, and the va sees 6.1 million -- 6.5 million people a ear. it has to be put into a broader context.
the issues we are dealing with right now is the veterans organization is good what you're getting into it, what is not good is that there are waiting lists. there are serious allegations that some hospitals are cooking the books. you're calling of three months in advance, and it looks like two weeks. that is outrageous, and anyone who does that needs to be punished severely. and of discussion. - end of discussion. it may be in certain parts of the country they do not have the doctors, the nurses, the staff that they need. i have called for more funding for va health care. the level of funding has been pretty good, but when you're looking at a system in the last three years that has increased i 1.5 million people, do they have the resources to do t?
is the v.a. allocating its resources effectively? is the secretary firing incompetent people, does he have the give ability of doing that? -- the capability of doing that? it is something we're going to look at hard once the recess is over. what you do not want to do is create a situation where any secretary ken, and -- can come in and say let's fire a whole hospital of administrators and make them political tools. >> the president said his chief of stack up to see you. why? >> he wants to understand what
i'm trying to do, and that i understand would the administration is trying to do. to figure out how to work best together. i just should just did what i think the real problems -- i just suggested what i think the real problems are. and excusable in cooking the books, rather than saying to a veteran sorry, we have a three month waiting list. putting that person on a list, and then two weeks before saying your appointment is here. you can be seen in two weeks. that is on acceptable. be the question we have to ask is that are there portions of the country that lack the physical capacity to deal with eed? why the act and inspect or general -- acting inspector
general --a report suggested hat as many as 40 death can in some passion can be attributed o the waiting lists. >> that is an excellent uestion. our health-care them as a whole is fairly dysfunctional. there are tens of millions of people that do not have any health insurance at all. they have people who die because it invited to a doctor when they should. you million people on health insurance who cannot walk into a doctor's office because of high premiums and high deductibles. you have a whole lot of problems. cnn said executor suggested. they said -- exactly what you suggested. they say many people die while
on a weekly list. that is the allegation from the doctor in phoenix. all we know about that allegation is that i asked the inspector general to give me a preliminary report about what you know. he said that as of now there was not one list of 40, there are a number of lists of people who are deceased. that hospital has about 88,000 patients, some of the mold, some of them sec. of the first 17 games that we looked at on one list we could not attribute one death due to elayed care. tomorrow the me and out something different, but to answer your question officially, on the first list that we saw, zero deaths could
be attributed to delayed care. >> so you are saying that waiting list are a problem. why not while you're waiting for these investigations to finish, why not allow veterans who are on waiting lists go to any hospital and get the care that they need? >> that may be a temporary solution. we are going to take a hard look at that, and if it is a reasonable supportable action, i will support it. some of my republican colleagues have become interested in veterans issues. a couple of months ago i worked on legislation with every major veterans organization, almost every veterans group in america, we listen to what their concerns were. there are a lot of concerns
within the veterans community. we passed contrary -- introduced comprehensive legislation. we had two republicans in the senate voted for it. it is an expensive piece of legislation, $70 billion over a 10 year timeframe. if you're going to send people off to war you have to take care of them when they come home, do not tell me that $70 billion is too much to spend. e are working on that. if my republican colleagues want to come up with some money, we can figure out how to do that. that type of care by a large his work spans of the care and -- i at large is more expensive than the care in the v.a.. with the v.a. does right now, if you have a serious type of care that they are not able to
deal with any certain for to the country you can go outside of the system. my republican friends are going to have to do with they have not been up to now and say we have some problems, we are going to have to spend some money. >> why has it taken the phoenix factor in this case to get to this level of attention? this is not new, the issue of letting more private care options be available is also not new. you are saying that republicans are take attention to the -- are paying attention to his. >> we want -- this is memorial day. let's take a deep rest before we get all of the issues out ere. remember the sacrifice made by so many families, and the suffering of so many people who
have put their lives on the line to defend this country. just a little while ago i was honored by the gold star wives f america. these are the women who have lost their husbands in battle with an award. these women are there, they are married, they are widows, they have kids. it will probably want to work with me or anybody else to create a strong and effective v.a. health-care system, that s what i want to do. where it becomes a little bit elliptical -- political, occasionally in this town olitics plays a role, i know you will fall off your chair in shock, but what i do what i want to see if -- what i do not want to see is the veterans of america made a political ool.
>> talk a little bit more about the politics of this issue and how it seems to be resonating, and the extent to which, you like it or not, it seems to play so far into the republican narrative. >> let's take a deep breath and see where we are at as a country. in the last year my republican colleagues in the house have voted 50 times to repeal the affordable care act which would provide insurance to some 50 million americans. they voted 50 times to repeal hat. the ryan budget proposed by optimization -- voucherisation. it would and medicare as we
know it. the republican budget in the house made devastating cuts in medicaid during millions of people off health insurance. if i were to suggest to you, and the republican governors would pick up 100% of the cost, would you be shocked to know hat there are some republicans who were not enthusiastic about a government run health care system or the veterans administration? what a shock you totally do know that there are right wing folks saying why would the government be involved in health care for veterans, that ryan ties the whole system -- we should privatize the whole system. i think that is a disastrous dea.
without exception, the veterans organization understands that is a dusty last idea -- disastrous idea. the health-care crisis has been up on obama for trying to do something fairly modest. i'm not surprised that they're going to go after the v.a., it is an easy target from a because today 230,000 people are walking into the v.a.. if 95% of them get excellent care, which would be off the charts, that would need 10,000 people get bad care. >> what about the president's handling of the situation? >> let's talk about it. whose budgets were better?
the presidents or george bush's? obamas budgets have been pretty strong. we have been dealing with homelessness among veterans for years. we have made real progress under obama. it amazes me how few people talk about it, when bush left office we were processing claims by paper. what government agency does this? obody does this. we have made -- you talk about health care, an issue i am concerned about. this is a revolutionary breakthrough in getting people enrolled in rural areas. opiate overuse is a problem in the military and the private sector. people are getting too many drugs.
you know who is leading that effort to get us off opiates? he v.a.. obama has a good record in terms of addressing the needs of our veterans. i would say that historically the v.a. had it problem's, and they'd linger and we have to ddress those problems. >> he has come across as president has to said. this would be a good time for obama to get in front of the story. he is laying president passive, waiting for the investigation to finish. >> i am old-fashioned. i think it would be nice to have some facts before you make
decision. in america we believe in due process where we know the facts before we make a decision. the president is furious at in action in addressing some of these problems, and wants to see those things change. let me back to this point. we have heard about the backlogs regarding veterans claims. how many people know that that backlog has been reduced by 50%, and in fact that shinseki is on target to do what he romised to do? that does not make it onto the ront pages of the paper. the president and shinseki deserve some credit for that.
>> you have had the backlog reduced, and if shinseki states, all of these veterans just starting to enter the system and that they're going to be in for the next 50 years. why should the american public have any more faith in the long game for what is ahead versus what you said you're so against, which is leading rivatization happen? >> in terms of the quality of care that people are getting within the v.a., i'm not going to tell you that there are not exceptions. if you have always been happy in your own private life getting a doctor, it is probably not true, we have all ad problems. the organizations that represent millions and millions
of veterans once they are in the system, the care is pretty good, and we cannot forget about that. some of my right-wing friends who do not like government health care, who do not medicare or medicaid, that is ot necessarily true. the goal is that i intend to work with the veterans organizations and the veterans themselves to improve the v.a. health care. the immediate issue we have to do is that if you walked in, you get treated in a prompt way in all 50 states. there are ways we can do that. >> the president said he wanted shinseki to get back to him within a week. is there any kind of note in a week that you do not know now? >> we will probably know how expensive the allegations are, or the reality is regarding cooking the books. knowing whether there are
hospitals around the country which in fact are not telling the truth in terms of the waiting time that it veterans re experiencing. >> what does that mean for you and your committee? >> we have to determine that that practice is unacceptable and anyone who engages in that should be punished. it is outrageous, and people do not stay in their jobs when they're lying. the second point, the more important point, they do not have the staff or resources to
take care of our veterans. why is that? that is a very important question. it may be that with a significant influx of veterans that we have seen in recent years we have to own up to the fact that we have 1.5 million new people coming in, and if we do not have the resources to take care of them, we have to work on that. >> what is the budget for the va? is it adequate? > it may not be. that is what we have to learn. >> why we're not sure what the audits and inspector general reports are going to say, we do know that you have been hinking about whether or not to run for president. what is your current state of thinking? >> in my view, the country
faces huge problems. our middle class is disappearing, we are moving toward an oligarchic society where they control the political life of the country. -- climate change is an unbelievably important issue. here need to be candidates that stand up for the working class and the middle class, and are prepared to take on the big-money interest with so much influence. when i wake up in the morning i worry very much about the future of this country, and someone has to stand up for working families. i have not made that decision yet. my major concern right now is the election coming up in november, it would be premature to be talking about the presidential elections before hen. i do not want to see the republicans take over the senate.
i will be working with my colleagues to get as many progressive forces as we can. >> i want to ask you about one other thing, a letter that you signed with other senators to change the name of the washington redskins. is it the role of the congress to get involved? >> it is the role of congress to get involved in any issue that involves the american eople. to say that wall street has destroyed the american economy, we need to break up the big banks in my view. if there is one team that maybe having a racist mascot, it is mportant to talk about it. >> is not legislation, it is
not something -- >> no. >> who is your favorite nfl team? >> i come from new england. e like the patriots. >> the problem is coming up with a better name. > that may be. i want to thank everybody all of the men and women who up with our lives on the line and sacrifice for our country. i wish them a very happy memorial day, and we will not forget their sacrifices. > thank you. >> we are back with our reporters.
let's begin with the first question off the bat to determine which was showed retired general eric shinseki be fired or resigned? it was any definitive -- very definitive. >> here is a guy who presumably understands the department better than anybody this hundred and said unequivocally no, that this much respected guys should remain, and that made the case. he cited three things, only two of which the president cited last week. the fact that he has done away with his crazy paper system, the fact that they reduce the homelessness, and that they have reduce the backlog. my question is whether the politics of this will overwhelm even bernie sanders. what will he do, fax aside -- facts aside? what does he do with the audits come back and show it is not
ystemic? what do you do when you're president obama and bernie sanders? do you still put your power behind the attorney general. >> who is eric shinseki? >> this is one of the more respected ex generals out there. just this weekend be joint chief was still offering his support them about import credibility, and his leadership skills. you have the republicans on the other side doing the same thing. john boehner has said he is leaning toward asking for his resignation, but reminding people that that is not about that, it is about the problems of the v.a.. everyone knows the v.a. is a problematic system, always has
been, and a lot of people think it always will be. despite the problems ms. -- and the accomplishments that senator sanders said, it is a problem. >> the power to fire people as needed, where does the egislation go from here? >> that legislation does us much for the v.a. as for the entire federal government. the changes 100 the years of precedent -- 150 years of precedent. it is a shiny political solution in the moment, so if
this audit comes out and there are heads to rule and they do rule and shinseki is the one to drop the ax people will carry on. the next to be a secretary -- next va secretary will have the same issues to deal with and they will only get more challenging as millions of entrants enter into the ystem. >> what does this mean for president obama? >> the potential political peril as we suggested of playing into a larger narrative of not just government ineptitude, but -- and you alluded to it -- a view that has taken hold during his tenure of a certain passiveness.
we saw that university of chicago law professor is saying he will wait until all the reports come in. a perfect world, that is the way to go, but they have to keep the senate, you cannot let this become a big issue that is out there with some of the other big issues, whether it is benghazi or the irs. if this is a real scandal, you have to clean house in a way that this cannot come back to bite you at the polls and lose your majority in the senate in november. >> thank you.