President Barack Obama on Friday visited the Phoenix VA medical facility where the veterans healthcare crisis first erupted, saying some progress has been made but much more needs to be done "to restore the trust and confidence" of those who served.
"We all know that there have been significant problems at this facility," Obama said. "The kind of cooking the books and unwillingness to face up to the fact that veterans were not being adequately served went on too long."
Obama and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald spoke with veterans, hospital employees and members of Congress during the president’s first visit to the facility where long wait times for veterans seeking care and falsified records were first discovered. It spurred an internal VA investigation that found medical facilities throughout the country were falsifying records to create the appearance that veterans were receiving treatment in a timely manner.
Those long wait times contributed to patient deaths, officials said.
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Earlier in the day the administration announced a new advisory committee aimed at improving service for veterans seeking care, as well as assessing what progress has been made nearly one year after the scandal.
The VA points to a number of metrics that show care is improving, but opponents have said the improvements are not coming fast enough.
"The Obama Administration has been slow and reluctant to fundamentally reform VA operations,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said after the roundtable.
Some Republicans have been critical that is has taken until now for the president to visit the facility, especially since he drove past it without making a stop during a visit in January.
"What we know is there is still more work to do,” Obama said after the meeting.
"It’s important that veterans know that somebody’s got their backs"