Politics

Major Garrett, Ed Henry Slam Carney Over VA and Tester

Carney defends Shinseki

White House reporters Major Garrett and Ed Henry took Obama spokesman Jay Carney to task Wednesday over his fast-talking on the emerging scandal in the Department of Veteran's Affairs.

Garrett accused Carney of "talking around it," mentioning the bonuses given to those who led hospitals where veterans died after not receiving care.

"I would urge you to note how many Veterans Affairs offices there are around the country and simply state that what is required in circumstances like this is a clear-eyed, focused investigation and review, the likes of which are underway now," Carney said. "And again, we will look at the chairman's letter and review it. I think we all share concern, extreme concern, when it comes to making sure that our veterans are getting the care they deserve."

Henry followed up by challenging Carney to defend the remark made Wednesday by Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), that  the VA was doing a "pretty darn good job." Carney replied with the condescending tone he reserves for Fox News, saying he would "deliver the sound bite you're looking for."

"I think the VA has, under Secretary Shinseki, aggressively focused on the need to provide better care to our veterans, aggressively attacked the disability claims backlog that exists, and was expanded, before it came down by 50 percent, because of the decision to make sure that those who had claims related to exposure to Agent Orange and those who had claims related to post-traumatic stress disorder were prejudged as likely to receive the disability because of those claims," he said. "And that was the right thing to do. It also put added stress on the system and created an additional backlog, which the VA, under Secretary Shinseki, has been aggressively addressing."

Full exchange:

MAJOR GARRETT: Well, you're sort — Jay, you're sort of talking around it. I mean, the central issue is the services veterans are receiving for care they're seeking. And what we're driving at is increased evidence that it's not happening, secret wait lists, the bonuses paid so people get things when the services aren't being rendered. I know you would acknowledge —

JAY CARNEY: Major, I'm not going to quibble with you about allegations about one office and an allegation now about another. I would urge you to note how many Veterans Affairs offices there are around the country and simply state that what is required in circumstances like this is a clear-eyed, focused investigation and review, the likes of which are underway now. And again, we will look at the chairman's letter and review it. I think we all share concern, extreme concern, when it comes to making sure that our veterans are getting the care they deserve. And when they're not, and certainly when there's — if there's inappropriate conduct involved in preventing them from getting care, the president and the secretary will be the first to insist that action be taken.

ED HENRY: In general, though, Democratic Senator Jon Tester today said on MSNBC that he thinks VA — the VA Department is doing a, quote, pretty darn good job. Do you think overall they're doing a pretty darn good job?

CARNEY: Well, Ed, I'll deliver the sound bite you're looking for. I think the VA has, under Secretary Shinseki, aggressively focused on the need to provide better care to our veterans, aggressively attacked the disability claims backlog that exists, and was expanded, before it came down by 50 percent, because of the decision to make sure that those who had claims related to exposure to Agent Orange and those who had claims related to post-traumatic stress disorder were prejudged as likely to receive the disability because of those claims. And that was the right thing to do. It also put added stress on the system and created an additional backlog, which the VA, under Secretary Shinseki, has been aggressively addressing.