WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin believes President Barack Obama is too lazy to hold anyone in his administration accountable for the VA scandal.
“When you hold someone accountable, it takes energy and resource, and Barack Obama is lazy,” the former 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee told Fox News Wednesday night. “In fact, he warned us that he was lazy, and he attributed that to having been brought up in Hawaii. It’s his words, not mine.”
Palin’s comments came after Obama declared during a press conference that allegations of misconduct at VA hospitals will not be tolerated.
“I will not stand for it – not as commander in chief but also not as an American,” Obama said following an Oval Office meeting Wednesday with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Obama added: “We are going to fix whatever is wrong, and so long as I have the privilege of serving as commander in chief, I’m going to keep on fighting to deliver the care and the benefits and the opportunities that you and your families deserve, now and for decades to come.”
Palin told Fox News that the president has been aware of the problems surrounding the VA for the past six years and he has not been engaged about it.
“Nothing is going to happen while Obama is in charge of our military and the VA and our federal government, in general,” Palin stated. “Government is going to continue to grow under Barack Obama and this big ineffective, inefficient government that he has grown will just create and perpetuate the problem.”
Palin said that the status quo is fine with Obama.
“The main problem is government. It’s not the solution, like Ronald Reagan said. It is the problem,” Palin told Fox News.
The growing furor surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs centers on allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at VA hospitals. The department’s inspector general’s office says 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide, including a Phoenix hospital facing allegations that 40 people died while waiting for treatment and staff kept a secret list of patients in order to hide delays in care.
The allegations have raised fresh concerns about the Obama administration’s management of a department that has been struggling to keep up with the influx of new veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s comments Wednesday — his first on the matter in more than three weeks — signaled a greater urgency by the White House to keep the matter from spiraling into a deeper political problem in a midterm election year.
Several GOP lawmakers are seeking Shinseki’s resignation, as are Georgia Reps. John Barrow and David Scott, who on Wednesday became the first Democrats to call for the secretary to step down. Barrow is facing one of the most challenging re-election fights of any House Democrat.
Shinseki, a retired Army four-star general, did not appear with the president publicly Wednesday. While Obama spoke of the secretary warmly, saying he had put his “heart and soul” into improving care for the nation’s veterans, he added that there would be “accountability throughout the system” if the allegations are proved true.
The White House’s more immediate concern appears to be quickly getting the results of the VA’s internal reviews of the hospital troubles. Shinseki is due to give Obama a preliminary report next week, with a broader review being overseen by White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors scheduled to wrap up in June.
Nabors, who also took part in the Oval Office meeting with Shinseki, headed to Phoenix on Wednesday to meet with staff at the VA hospital that is at the center of the allegations.
The current director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, Sharon Helman, has been placed on leave while the VA’s inspector general investigates the claims raised by several former VA employees. Investigators probing the claims say they have so far not linked any patient deaths in Phoenix to delayed care. A report is due in August.
Last year, Helman was awarded a $9,345 bonus in addition to her $169,000 annual salary. Shinseki rescinded the bonus on Wednesday, the VA said. A spokesman said the bonus had been awarded through an administrative error.
Two Republican senators have introduced legislation to prohibit payment of bonuses to employees at the Veterans Health Administration through next year. Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Deb Fischer of Nebraska said the VA should focus its spending on fixing problems at the agency, “not rewarding employees entrenched in a failing bureaucracy.” Burr is the senior Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Fischer is on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Both have called for Shinseki to step down.
The House passed a bill in February that would eliminate performance bonuses for the department’s senior executive staff through 2018.
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