Initially, The Hill reported that embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki would go to Capitol Hill this morning to attempt to mend Congressional fences. His itinerary changed, though, to an Oval Office meeting with Barack Obama at 10 am, which visitor records show is a relatively rare appearance for Shinseki.
Gee, whatever might they be discussing?
President Obama plans to meet with embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Wednesday morning in the Oval Office, as the White House starts to get more involved in probing allegations that veterans died while waiting for care.
The White House said Obama will meet with Shinseki as well as White House deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors, who is involved in an internal review. The meeting was listed as an “update on the situation at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
Shinseki, and the White House, have so far rebuffed calls for the secretary to resign. But the controversy is expanding.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General’s Office said late Tuesday that 26 facilities were being investigated nationwide over allegations of manipulated waiting times and other issues.
They also may be discussing this Washington Post report about warnings to the VA that wait lists were being manipulated — four years ago:
Robert Petzel resigned last week as the top health official for the Department of Veterans Affairs, just one day after testifying before a Senate committee that he knew VA health clinics were using inappropriate scheduling practices as early as 2010. …
Petzel admitted that he knew of the issue after Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) questioned him about the memo below, in which a top VA executive warned the directors of all VA health networks that questionable scheduling practices would “not be tolerated.”
The message summarized at least 17 tactics that VA hospitals were known to have used to hide treatment delays and give the impression they were meeting the department’s goal of seeing patients within 14 to 30 days.
That question didn’t get as much attention as did Petzel’s answers on whether people would be terminated for fraud. It’s getting more traction now, and that may mean the end of Shinseki’s run at VA.
At least, that’s what the Morning Joe panel believes, with Bill Kristol drawing the obvious conclusion from the rapidly-arranged presidential face time:
Two days ago, Obama expressed his “confidence” in Shinseki, which in earlier administrations was an early warning signal of personnel changes. That hasn’t been the case with Obama … until now, perhaps. It’s not quite as clear-cut as Kristol suggests that this is a prelude to a Cabinet change, but Shinseki is rapidly running out of room even if he emerges with his job intact. Obama is coming under a lot of pressure to act, even more so than with the ObamaCare debacle. Veterans have died and are dying because of this corruption in the VA, and it’s clear that the current team did nothing while it festered and metastasized. If Shinseki isn’t out today, he’s going to be out soon — and both of them would be wise to end it quickly rather than draw out the drama.