ARIZONA NEWS

President Barack Obama’s motorcade passes by Phoenix VA

Jan 8, 2015, 12:10 PM | Updated: 5:14 pm

PHOENIX — President Barack Obama drove by but did not visit the Phoenix Veterans Administration hospital, the focal point of a nationwide scandal, during a recent stop in the Valley.

Many felt Obama owed the VA a visit because it was the first found to be delaying veteran care in what ended up to be a nationwide scandal.

“We hope, but not holding my breath,” Dan Caldwell of Concerned Veterans for America said. “He’s been very hands-off throughout this entire scandal. He’s not shown interest in reforming and fixing the VA beyond signing a bill that he had no role in helping craft and moving through Congress.”

Vietnam-era veteran Jesus Miramon was wearing his old U.S. Army dress uniform
and holding a sign saying “do not hate vets today.”

Phoenix veteran Mike Woods said he was disappointed Obama skipped an easy visit
that could have sent a message to veterans and hospital staff of his interest.

“He’s the commander in chief of our armed forces, and we’re veterans, we’re
guys that went to war for him,” Woods said. “And he (doesn’t) have enough
respect to see that we get care that our taxpayers paid deeply … for?”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also asked the president to pay the facility — just a mile from where Obama gave a speech on housing and economic recovery — a visit to meet with veterans and whistleblowers.

“Unfortunately, President Obama missed another opportunity to do right by
those who have served and sacrificed on our nation’s behalf,” McCain said in a
statement.

Paula Pedene, one of the whistleblowers, said she noticed something was wrong long before the 2014 exposure.

“Management was saying that we’re getting patients in within 7-14 days,” Pedene said in October. “We [the staff] were seeing the patients and were hearing them say, ‘It’s taken me eight months, nine months, to get an appointment.’ We knew there was a disconnect.”

The complaints were the start of an avalanche of wrongdoing at that spread to VA facilities across the country.

Reports eventually came out that medical care for thousands of veterans had been delayed, and that as many as 40 veterans may have died because of it.

That scandal eventually led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and an overhaul of the agency.

The VA’s Office of Inspector General released a report in August that could not assert that long wait times directly resulted in the deaths of 40 or so patients. One of the individuals who helped bring the Phoenix problems to light, Dr. Samuel Foote, a former clinic director for the Phoenix VA, later claimed the Inspector General’s report was “a whitewash.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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President Barack Obama’s motorcade passes by Phoenix VA