John McCain Demands Hillary Clinton Apologize to Veterans

Clinton downplayed issues at VA in recent interview

John McCain
John McCain / AP

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) is demanding Hillary Clinton apologize for claiming that Republicans have made issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs seem more "widespread" than they are in reality.

McCain, himself a war hero, demanded Clinton issue an apology to the nation’s veterans and their families in a written statement Monday, three days after the Democratic presidential candidate said that scandal at the VA has "not been as widespread as it has been made out to be."

"Hillary Clinton’s remarks … show a total lack of appreciation for the crisis facing veterans’ healthcare today," McCain wrote, according to the Arizona Republic. "Secretary Clinton owes an apology to the families of the veterans who lost their loved ones due to mismanagement and corruption in the federal government."

An inspector general report published in September found that as many as 300,000 veterans may have died waiting for healthcare from the VA. Moreover, an independent assessment released the same month concluded that the VA’s network of health systems faces "crises in leadership and culture" warranting a "system-wide reworking" of the Veterans Health Administration.

When asked whether she has any new ideas to solve issues at the VA on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show Friday, Clinton sidestepped the question and accused Republicans of "berating" the federal agency.

"There have been a number of surveys of veterans and, overall, veterans who do get treated are satisfied with their treatment," Clinton said. "Nobody would believe that from the coverage that you see with the constant berating of the VA that comes from the Republicans in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have."

A poll released just last week found that 91 percent of veterans and active duty military want veterans’ healthcare to be reformed in the near future. While Republicans have sought to solve issues at the VA by giving Secretary Robert McDonald the power to hold employees accountable for misconduct, Democrats have blocked their attempts to send legislation that would do so to Obama’s desk.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R., Fla.), who introduced the VA Accountability Act of 2015 in the House, said in a written statement in response to Clinton’s comments that anyone who denies the existence of widespread issues at the VA "isn’t paying attention."

"Whether it’s continued delays in veterans’ medical care, the blatant waste of billions of taxpayer dollars, or a rampant lack of accountability throughout every corner of the organization, there is simply no denying that the problems of the Department of Veterans Affairs are indeed widespread. The VA scandal was caused by dishonest bureaucrats who chose to whitewash the department’s problems rather than solve them," Miller wrote, citing the fake waitlist scandal at the VA in 2014 that led to the deaths of dozens of veterans.

"Those who repeat that same shameful pattern of behavior are only shortchanging veterans."

Veterans’ groups have also fired back at Clinton for her comments.

"Hillary Clinton has shown that just like the Obama administration, of which she was a part, she will minimize the deep-rooted problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs and engage in partisan attacks against those who propose real and fundamental reform," Concerned Veterans for America CEO Pete Hegseth in a statement Saturday.