In a press conference this morning, the president said he was “furious and upset” over revelations that officials at a Phoenix VA hospital covered up the long list of veterans waiting to receive treatment, 40 of whom may have died as a result. Twenty-six hospitals and facilities where similar claims have been reported are now being investigated.
“What we have seen here is mismanagement at the top levels," Obama said. "Abuse, incompetence, and a lack of strict oversight has been going on for years at the VA, and it has ruined people’s lives and forever shaken the American people’s confidence in an important institution.
"That’s why I believe the correct course of action is to have Congress authorize a $700 billion bailout of the VA, so we can bandage up this problem and get the ship back on course.
“As we learned from past crises such as the Wall Street financial meltdown, asking insiders to fix the problems they created by giving them a bunch of money is a fail-proof strategy. It worked for Wall Street, now let's make it work for our veterans.”
The U.S. government bailed out several Wall Street firms during the depth of the financial crisis, most notably though its $700 billion Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Although the money was eventually paid back, many economists worry that the program created a moral hazard and failed to address the root causes of the problem.
"I'm all for increasing the VA's budget," says one veteran of the Iraq War, "but just giving them a blank check for $700 billion is ridiculous. We need a top-to-bottom rethink of veterans' care in this country. Since when does government just throw money at problems and expect them to go away?"
In his remarks Obama called on legislators, health care lobbyists and VA officials to enact reforms as they oversee the spending of the bailout money, all of which will come from U.S. taxpayers.
When asked if any more VA officials would be asked to resign over the scandal, or face possible legal repercussions, Obama dismissed the idea.
“No, of course not,” he said. “Don’t be silly. Why would holding people accountable for their actions be necessary?”