[NB: Hat Tip to Keith Koffler's invaluable White House Dossier for most of these links.]
This was how the VA scandal broke:
At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list.
The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.
For six months, CNN has been reporting on extended delays in health care appointments suffered by veterans across the country and who died while waiting for appointments and care. But the new revelations about the Phoenix VA are perhaps the most disturbing and striking to come to light thus far.
Internal e-mails obtained by CNN show that top management at the VA hospital in Arizona knew about the practice and even defended it.
Dr. Sam Foote just retired after spending 24 years with the VA system in Phoenix. The veteran doctor told CNN in an exclusive interview that the Phoenix VA works off two lists for patient appointments.
That was on April 23, on CNN.
Dr. Foote explains himself in the New York Times today a day and a month later:
MY decision to become a whistle-blower after 24 years as a physician in a Veterans Affairs hospital was, at first, an easy one. I knew about patients who were dying while waiting for appointments on the V.A.’s secret schedules, and I couldn’t stay silent.
But there was no response to the two letters I sent to the Veterans Affairs inspector general, one in late October 2013 and one in early February. Going public would damage an institution I gave more than two decades of my life to, trying to make a better place for veterans to get their care. But I had to be able to sleep at night.
Any scandal that befalls the V.A. necessarily lands on the party that is in the White House. As this is an election year, we can expect that there will be significant pushback to delay and limit the discovery of negative information — which is why I expect my suggestions to be vehemently opposed by the White House and the V.A.’s upper management.
I am worried about the patients whose care is entrusted to the V.A., and I am skeptical about our chances of creating real, long-lasting reform — but I hope that this time we will. It is easy, especially on Memorial Day weekend, to pay lip service to the need to “support our troops” and our veterans. But it is much harder to actually do it.
Dr. Foote has little faith in President Obama’s leadership, a pretty cynical point of view when the president was described as “madder than hell”. But if we look at the intervening 31 days since the story broke, we may see the reason for the good doctor’s skepticism.
Obama was in Asia when the story broke (You remember, he told Malaysia that the US has “work to do” on human rights.) He returned to the White House on the evening of April 29th.
There was a lot of business to catch up on, as one might expect, but that’s what weekends are for—to work through the backlog of the nation’s business.
From the pool report:
POTUS motorcade departed WH at about 11:40 am and arrived at Fort Belvoir, Va. at 12:06 p.m., at which point motorcade pulled off from pool van. Pool did not see president.
Per White House, POTUS is playing golf with Marvin Nicholson, Joe Paulsen and Michael Brush.
Doubtless strategizing how to fix the VA. But he got busy the next week.
Obama Schedule || Wednesday, May 7, 2014
by KEITH KOFFLER on MAY 6, 2014, 9:53 PM
10:00 am ET || Receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
11:05 am ET || Departs White House
12:35 pm CT || Arrives Arkansas
2:50 pm CT || Delivers a statement
3:35 pm CT || Departs Arkansas
5:00 pm PT || Arrives Los Angeles
6:55 pm PT || Delivers remarks and answers questions at a joint fundraiser for House and Senate Democrats; private residency, Los Angeles
8:10 pm PT || Attends USC Shoah Foundation dinner; Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles
The Shoah dinner as a cover for a fundraising junket—well played, sir!
And he wasn’t done yet!
Obama Schedule || Thursday, May 8, 2014
by KEITH KOFFLER on MAY 7, 2014, 8:26 PM
9:30 am || Participates in a DNC fundraiser; The Beverly Hilton
11:10 am || Departs Los Angeles
11:50 am || Arrives San Diego
1:15 pm || Delivers remarks at a fundraiser for congressional Democrats; private residence
2:30 pm || Departs San Diego
3:50 pm || Arrives San Jose
4:15 pm || Participates in a DNC fundraiser; private residence
6:30 pm || Speaks at a DNC fundraiser; Fairmont San Jose
A few more days pass—and it’s the weekend!
It’s the usual Saturday golf. President Obama and three White House aides – usual type players – arrived at the Joint Andrews course shortly after noon.
It’s the president’s 12th time out this year and the 169th round of his presidential golfing career.
Okay, he’s golfed enough, and fundraised enough—surely he’s over jet lag—it must be time to address the nation’s veterans.
But it’s not:
Obama Schedule || Wednesday, May 14, 2014
by KEITH KOFFLER on MAY 13, 2014, 10:26 PM
10:00 am || Receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
1:20 pm || With the first lady, departs the White House
2:30 pm || Arrives New York City
3:25 pm || Delivers remarks on infrastructure; Tarrytown, NY
5:00 pm || Attends a DNC fundraiser; InterContinental Hotel, New York City
It’s been three week, sir: surely time to display that legendary Obama temper and kick some ass, no?
Rob Nabors, a White House deputy chief of staff, will work with the VA temporarily to help assess its practices and develop recommendations on how veterans’ hospitals can increase access to timely care, the White House announced Wednesday.
“While we get to the bottom of what happened in Phoenix, it’s clear the VA needs to do more to ensure quality care for our veterans. I’m grateful that Rob, one of my most trusted advisors, has agreed to work with Secretary Shinseki to help the team at this important moment.”
Maybe he hides his anger:
TAPPER How on earth, can the president still have full confidence in him. People died.
McDONOUGH You heard what Gen. Shinseki had to say about this. He’s mad as Hell about this. Nobody’s more mad than the president.
Grateful, angry, what’s the difference? Either way, he got his man:
Today, I accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I thank Dr. Petzel for his four decades of service to Veterans.
“Four decades” should have been a clue: it turns out the guy retired, a couple of weeks early.
That done, it was back to the golf course:
A reporter got stuck in less than stellar surroundings Saturday. As President Obama golfed at the fancy Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., an exclusive course that has hosted four President’s cups, the reporter was put in a maintenance shed.
On the way to the shed, Houston Chronicle‘s Kevin Diaz first waited in the equipment shack cafeteria (whatever that means). Later, he was sent to a” maintenance shed” to wait out the President’s golf game.
As he noted in his White House Pool Report, “POTUS motorcade departed at 4:45 from the gated, lakefront campus of Robert Trent Jones’ signature golf course, which looked like a nice place to play golf, at least from the maintenance shed where pool spent the day.”
If the designated reporter is meek enough to sit on his ass in a maintenance shed, that’s probably where he belongs. What a useless lot the Washington press corps is.
FINALLY! Four weeks since the story broke:
Some of the problems with respect to how veterans are able to access the benefits that they’ve earned, that’s not a new issue. That’s an issue that I was working on when I was running for the United States Senate. Taking care of our veterans and their families has been one of the causes of my presidency.
And dummy lists, Mr. President? Have they been “one of the causes of [your] presidency”? Military “folks” died waiting for access to your “issue”.
What are you going to do about it?
President Obama headed out unusually early this morning for his customary Saturday round of golf, motorcading to the course at Joint Base Andrews.
From the pool reports:
The president left the White House in his motorcade at 9:25 am. He is wearing a well-tailored pair of khaki pants, a white polo shirt, a navy blue windbreaker and no hat.
At least, that’s how it looked from the maintenance shed.
In the month-plus since the story broke, Obama has “retired” one bureaucrat, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Democrat Party, and golfed four times. Perhaps that explains Dr. Foote’s jaundiced view of affairs expressed above.