The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee slammed President Obama’s record on veteran issues ahead of Obama’s sixth State of the Union address Tuesday, declaring that Congress “will be forced to take legislative action” to hold the administration accountable.
Republican Rep. Jeff Miller blasted Obama’s inability to hold his Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accountable for its backlog of unprocessed veteran benefit claims, preventable veteran deaths at VA clinics, and a recent website glitch that exposed the personal information of thousands of veterans to theft.
“Veterans issues deserve more than just a passing reference during the upcoming State of the Union address, so I hope President Obama will take the opportunity to demonstrate a substantive commitment to providing the leadership that has so far been lacking at his Department of Veterans Affairs,” Miller said in a statement.
“VA’s widespread and systemic lack of accountability is exacerbating all of its most pressing problems, including the department’s stubborn disability benefits backlog, a mounting toll of preventable veteran deaths at VA medical centers across the country and VA’s continued inability to protect the personal info of America’s more than 20 million veterans,” Miller said.
Miller recently wrote a letter demanding VA secretary Eric Shinseki take steps to address software glitches like the kind that plagued the department’s eBenefits portal, which exposed the “medical and financial information” of more than 5,000 veterans to anyone able to log on to the portal. A VA spokesman told The Daily Caller that it “reinforced its security posture” and that the “defect had been remedied,” but Miller’s letter stated that “these types of breaches continue to occur on a regular basis at the VA.”
VA’s backlog of severely delayed benefit claims increased at the beginning of the new year to more than 400,000.
VA did, however, manage to prevent bedridden veterans from hearing Christmas carols or receiving gifts wrapped in Christmas-themed wrapping paper during the holiday season.
“But the department is lacking more than just accountability. VA also refuses to engage in a constructive and honest conversation about its challenges, routinely ignoring media inquiries and slow rolling congressional requests for information, of which there are more than 100, some dating back more than a year,” Miller said.
“As commander-in-chief, President Obama is the only person in a position to hold VA leaders directly accountable, and his leadership and personal involvement is essential to ending the culture of complacency that is inhibiting VA’s ability to serve veterans and dragging the organization’s reputation through the mud. If President Obama and VA leaders refuse to instill a culture of accountability and transparency at VA, Congress will be forced to take legislative action,” Miller said.