LOS ANGELES — President Barack Obama on Friday will visit the epicenter of the Veterans Affairs scandal, which last year led to the dismissal of top agency bosses and an overhaul of the department’s health care system.
Even as the VA works to rebuild after revelations managers covered up wait times, critics still contend enough hasn’t been done to reform the way the federal government cares for veterans. Obama on Friday plans to announce an advisory committee formed from private and public sector leaders meant to develop better ways to administer health care to former servicemen and women.
At the Phoenix VA Medical Center, Obama will meet with the new VA Secretary Bob McDonald, veterans and VA employees to hear directly about the agency’s progress toward correcting the errors that drew widespread anger last year.
It will be his first visit to the hospital since the scandal last year, though his motorcade drove past the facility in January when he was in Arizona for an event on housing. Some veterans’ groups blasted him for not stopping at the VA medical center then.
The visit is symbolic since the Phoenix VA center was one of the most egregious examples of the tactics used by VA manager to hide lengthy wait times for veterans seeking care.
In April last year, CNN reported at least 40 veterans died while waiting for appointments at the Phoenix hospital. Many of them were placed on secret waiting lists, which were created to hide how long patients were actually waiting for care.
The revelations cost many officials their jobs, including the chief of the Phoenix medical center and Eric Shinseki, who ran the VA since Obama took office in 2009.
McDonald, his replacement, weathered his own dust-up earlier this year when he was caught on camera telling a homeless veteran he had served in the special forces, which he hadn’t. He later apologized.