Former U.S. Senate majority leader and GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole criticized the handling of the VA scandal this week, calling for “a shakeup”.
A VA hospital named after the former Kansas senator and disabled veteran is in Wichita, Kan. “I think it’s a disaster right now,” Dole told USA Today.
“I think it’s a culture that’s been built up over the years. Now it’s come to a boiling point. I’m not certain where it’s going to end,” said the 90 year-old, who was wounded by machine gun fire during World War II.
At least 26 VA hospitals are under investigation for keeping secret lists of veterans off the books. Some of those veterans have reportedly died while waiting for medical care.
“You shouldn’t keep a veteran waiting three months to see a doctor,” Dole said.
“I don’t think it’s funding. I think there needs to be a shakeup,” he said. “If I were doing it, every hospital has a director, and he has to be responsible for that hospital, and I think they ought investigate all the directors and how they’ve responded to heavy caseloads.”
Two bills — one in the House and one in the Senate — were proposed this week to allow the VA’s top brass greater leeway in firing and demoting senior hospital executives.
Jeff Miller, a Republican who heads the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the VA’s current structure is “calcified in bureaucratic red tape.” The House passed its bill 390-33. (RELATED: Dem SLAMS Shinseki And Obama Over VA Scandal)
But a companion bill proposed by Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was blocked in the Senate. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders of Vermont said that he would hold hearings on the scandal in coming weeks. Sanders justified the delay by saying he didn’t have time to read the three-page bill.
“We take generally good care of our veterans”, said Dole, adding that the U.S. provides the best care and benefits to veterans of any country in the world. ”It’s not that we don’t take care of our veterans.”
He also expressed mixed feelings about Shinseki, saying that he introduced the retired four-star Army general — who is a wounded veteran himself — at his confirmation hearing.
“I think he should stay, and I think particularly he should stay until the White House gets this investigative report that they’re doing. Until we get the facts and we can say what we can lay at his feet and was his responsibility has been.”