Media pundits and news outlets lit into the Republican party last week after the GOP’s hypocritical pouncing on a scandal that broke at a Phoenix Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital.
Reports allege hospital administrators falsified records in order to cover up a reported backlog. Officials believe the treatment delays may have led to the deaths of 40 veterans who were awaiting care at the Phoenix facility.
While the White House acted quickly in acknowledging the situation and launching a full investigation, it didn’t take long for Republican lawmakers to seize the moment as an opportunity to tear into Democrats and the Obama administration on the treatment of veterans in the country.
“The hypocrisy on view here is truly something to behold,” wrote reporter Alec MacGillis for the New Republic. “For Republicans to expand the scandal into a broader indictment of Obama’s overall handling of veterans affairs means overlooking some relevant context. For starters, there is the matter of funding. If there’s been one side pushing for greater resources for the Veterans Administration in the age of austerity these past five years, it hasn’t been the Republicans.
“It was the much-maligned economic stimulus package of 2009 that included $1 billion for the VA. While the VA itself was protected from the budget sequestration that Republicans fought to keep in place last year, many other veterans programs—providing mental health services and housing, among other things—were hit hard by the sequestration cuts. And when the Senate was poised to pass a $24 billion bill for federal healthcare and education programs for veterans three months ago, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, blocked it in a filibuster, saying the bill would bust the budget and complaining that Senate Democrats had refused to allow an amendment on Iran sanctions to be attached to the bill.”
MacGillis also notes that the problems plaguing VA hospitals predate the Obama presidency and were exacerbated thanks to the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“There is a pretty basic reason for backlogs at VA facilities and in the disability claims process, the other ongoing VA mess,” continues the article. “Put simply: when you go to war, you get more wounded veterans, and in a country without a universal health care system, they are all funneled into this one agency with limited capacity. Every one of the Republican leaders quoted above attacking Obama for the VA backlogs strongly supported launching the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that resulted in nearly 7,000 fatalities and a huge surge in medical needs and disability claims.
“[Obama] is now having to reckon with the fallout from that event, as is his responsibility to do as commander in chief. But you’d think that those who had actually played a part in bringing about that event would have enough self-awareness to resist scoring political points off of the years-later fallout. Apparently, though, even that is too much to ask.”