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Kind Press Conference

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind speaks at his La Crosse office Tuesday about investigations into deaths and cover-ups at some VA hospitals. After touring the Tomah VA Medical Center and its La Crosse clinic Tuesday, he said he is sure that they are serving veterans well.

Count U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse among officials saying they’re “mad as hell” about the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal in which vets reportedly died waiting for care and VA medical centers covered up evidence.

“I’m really mad as hell and upset that we’re hearing reports about veterans not receiving care,” the Democratic congressman said in an interview after a press conference Tuesday at his La Crosse office.

Kind announced he will seek creation of a bipartisan blue-ribbon commission to investigate the allegations of deaths and secret waiting lists at some VA hospitals.

“Long wait times for care can never be the norm for our veterans,” he said. “And if any efforts were made to conceal the extent of the problem, those responsible need to be held accountable immediately.

“Forming an independent, bipartisan commission would bring needed urgency to this problem,” he said.

The scandal erupted recently with the report that 40 veterans allegedly died while waiting for treatment at the VA hospital in Phoenix. The staff reportedly kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide delays.

Similarly, the VA Medical Inspector’s Office alleged that a clinic in Fort Collins, Colo., falsified records to leave the impression that staff doctors saw patients within the agency’s goal of 14 days.

The American Legion contends that similar incidents have occurred in at least 10 states, and it has compiled a list of such occurrences, as well as citing VA medical center officials who received bonuses despite woeful job performance.

“Our contract with veterans is a solemn obligation to provide health care. … Any excuse to create a false waiting list and cut corners is just not acceptable,” said Kind, who recently voted for the VA Management Accountability Act of 2014, which awaits Senate action to make it easier to fire senior officials for poor performance.

Kind expressed confidence after touring the VA Medical Center in Tomah and one of its outpatient clinics in La Crosse on Tuesday that Wisconsin veterans are receiving competent care. The Tomah center is a 266-bed facility that operates three other clinics besides La Crosse’s — in Owen, Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids — and serves 16 counties in west-central Wisconsin and Houston County, Minn.

In fiscal year 2014, 1,066 employees and more than 380 volunteers served about 25,000 veteran patients at Tomah VA facilities, according to the center.

“After repeated visits, I remain convinced that we’ve got quality veterans care in Wisconsin,” Kind said, adding that veterans going into Tomah and other centers in the state affirmed that belief.

Asked how the scandal is affecting Tomah VA staffers’ morale, Kind said, “They’re hopeful that the VA system as a whole doesn’t get painted with a broad brush. They feel they’re giving quality care.

“Nonetheless, we in Congress need to identify the problems and fixes,” he said, which is why he wants a bipartisan panel to “give us back a credible report on where the problems lie and where fixes can be made.”

The problem apparently dates back to the Bush administration, but the Obama White House has faced a withering attack on the issue.

President Barack Obama is “madder than hell” about the scandal and is committed to making improvements, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

During a press conference last week, Obama indicated that Shinseki’s job could be on the line if the issues are not fixed.

Although Shinseki told a Senate committee Thursday that he also is “mad as hell” about the allegations, he has said repeatedly that he won’t resign.

Asked whether the secretary should quit, Kind said that, if evidence surfaces that Shinseki was aware of the problems, “I will be the first in line to ask for his resignation.”

Kind said the bipartisan panel he advocates should include people with military backgrounds and experience working with veterans and their families, such as retired Army Gen. Colin Powell and former U.S. Sens. Bob Dole, a Republican, and Democrats Jim Webb and Max Cleland.

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Mike Tighe is the Tribune newsroom's senior citizen. That said, he don't get no respect from the cub reporters as he goes about his duly-appointed rounds on the health, religion and whatever-else-lands-in-his-inbox beats. Call him at 608-791-8446.

(30) comments

Bargeloader

This B.S. has been going on for years. They knew this. For years..! People had to die, for them to "get mad". What a sorry excuse for a congress. Go back to being a prosecutor Ron. You were good at that.

deancayote

We know that the White has total lack of oversight on the departments in question and scandals associated with them ....why continue to conjure up excuses?

If BHO would put down his seven iron and stop the campaigning and fundraising, he might have time to stop by a VA facility and talk to a Vet.....not hard to do if you care for your country!

GrandpaS

With all due respect, Mr. Kind, we don't need any more blue ribbon panels. We need steps that will immediately identify problem facilities, which can be determined by calling a handful of vets receiving care at any given facility. In the areas where there are delays and inadequate service, set up systems for vets to go to private medical centers until the veteran's hospitals are fixed. Heart conditions, cancer, physical disabilities and mental and emotional problems don't have time to wait for blue ribbon panels. The American Legion is about as bi-partisan as it gets, and if they say there's a problem in some areas, then there is, and the studies can be over and the repairs need to begin.

ExBadger

For all you ACM supporters out there....this is what you have to look forward to with communized medicine. You'll all going to wait for ever to get an appointment and then have a good chance dying in the process.

Duck Commander

Communism is rationing. That's what it is by nature. You are right, get ready to have your healthcare rationed. But hey, it's "fair".

Kronosaurus

This is political theater. Of course he is mad - their veterans! That's something both parties can get behind. Even John Stewart is mad and he's liberal. There's no possible way our media and our politicians can think rationally about this topic. Why? 1) Veterans! Like children, you just gotta support them no matter what; and 2) It's government run healthcare. That alone intoxicates the right with anger.

Dig a little into the story and what do you find? That the VA is a massive organization and so it is expected that there will be "outrages". A balanced analysis is needed (and exists but the media ignores it in favor of outrage). It's also the case that this has been a problem since back in the Carter administration.

DOL

The problem in the VA is because of the VA union. Investigations just released have shown that hundreds if not thousands of VA employees are being paid by the VA to work full time on Union issues. These full time union employees are nurses, therapists, counselors all while thousands of Vets are having to wait over a 1000 days to get seen. Nothing will ever be done about the VA until the VA union is busted and all VA employees can be fired for shoddy work, incompetence and obstructionism.

allcav

This begs the question: Who's the MOST mad as hell? Is is Obama, Shinseki, Kind, or others? Well, Obama said he was "madder than hell" after he read about it in the papers, so it may be him, since others are just "mad as hell."

LooneyLeft

The corruption is clear. From the IRS to the VA, a myriad of scandals is
plaguing the Obama Administration. But the incompetence of this
left-wing
gang is routinely on display -- from colossal failures like the
Obamacare
website to the infamous Syrian "red line."

Obama has made numerous foreign policy mistakes that a student fresh out
of
Foreign Service school would know to avoid. As a result, he looks like a
fool around the world and America's credibility has been shattered.

truthbknown

Too bad SARAH or 'PIZZA MAN' didn't get elected as President. They were far more qualified than Obama. When the REBUMBLINGCANS can offer someone other than a reality show bozos as a candidate I'll start listening to your empty headed rhetoric about Obama.

Russ

@ lookout. In the summer of 2007 Obama appeared before Veterans of Foreign Wars and promised to reform the VA and have Veteran's get care in a more timely manner... Still waiting

lookout

It doesn't matter what a person does or says, people will always challenge them either way they go. It the white door black door problem people seem to have. Now ask yourself this Russ. If you were running a country as big as ours, would you be held responsible for what others do? Or would you say the people responsible for the problems should be held accountable? One person can't be everywhere, looking over the shoulders of every person in the VA. It seems to me your just looking to hang someone whether their guilty or not Just to say you got someone. It's like a Salem witch hunt. Whether their guilty or not, we hang'm all.

Duck Commander

What? Obama said it, them failed to do it.

Stop and Think

Wait a second....for most of your post I couldn't tell if you were talking about Obama or Walker.

Old Bowhunter

Must be an election year. Ron has come out of hiding.

mooselodge

Was Ron mad as hell when the financial collapse happened? He helped create it. Was Ron mad as hell when the Iraq war was realized as a fraud and a failure? He helped create it. Ron is good at going with the popular sentiments of the moment.

Buggs Raplin

Ron called a town hall meeting in Sept. 2002 to get input from the people on whether to support Bush in authorizing war against Iraq. The place was packed and about 85% said "NO" to authorization. So, naturally, Ron voted "Yes" and then his office refused to divulge information on the e-mails, letters, and phone calls his office had received on the authorization question.

Truthsayer

These VA issues have been around for decades yet 97% of polled Veterans are satisfied with their VA experiences. Big problems existed under Bush where wait times exceeded 6 months......Considering that Bush and Cheney sent all of these troops to war they should have had the foresight to prepare our VA system for the deluge of newer patients and services.

Everyone is to blame here but no one more than the folks who voted for these useless wars costing us TRILLIONS while simultaneously failing to vote for and prepare our VA system for the tsunami of newer patients.

Duck Commander

But the issue here is Ron Kind feigning outrage, and proposing INCREASED government as a solution. Blue ribbon committees cost millions of dollars and don't really fix anything. They just give politicians cover.

Duck Commander

Was Ron mad when this happened?

http://dailycaller.com/2014/05/27/family-alleges-va-police-killed-vet/

Duck Commander

Ooh! Now Ronnie is mad as h3ll? Did he just hear about the problem on TV like Obama claims also? What is he doing in D.C. if he didn't know about the terrible state of the VA system?

Vote the bum out!

http://kenvandoren.com

Truthsayer

97% of polled Veterans are satisfied with their medical care. Because the VA is publicly "owned and run" we are blessed to have direct accountability.....something that doesn't exist in the for-profit private market where thousands of Americans die each year due to poor care, medical errors, and refused services due to poor insurance.

Duck Commander

I don't believe your numbers whatsoever.

A new poll shows that nearly two-thirds of America's veterans oppose Obamacare, and nearly half believe it's worse than the beleaguered VA healthcare system.

The poll by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), a veterans advocacy organization, shows that 63% of veterans disapprove of Obamacare - and 46% say it's worse than the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system.

Duck Commander

The latest research from YouGov shows that 47% of Americans think that the care provided in VA hospitals for returning war veterans is worse than the care they would receive at normal hospitals. Only 21% think that it is of equal quality, and 12% say that it is actually better. Among individuals who have themselves served in the military, 72% say that the care for returning war veterans in VA hospitals is worse than in normal hospitals.

When asked about the care provided by the VA, individuals who have previously served in the military are also noticeably more likely to have worries about the VA treating their family. 59% of veterans would not feel comfortable with members of their family being treated by the VA, compared to 49% of veterans’ relatives and 40% of people with no family history of military service.

Ron

Ron kind is nothing but a yes man to whatever the D party tells him to do. Now they are all "mad as hell". Other grand words from them "were going to get to the bottom of it" , " we'll set up a committee" and on and on and nothing happens. Meanwhile the the world affairs are are getting worse, the race devide is much worse since this administration took office, can't say anything or the PC police will call you racist.
I'm mad as he'll too at what these liberal, socialists have done to our wonderful country

lookout

Ron
You think every Republican doesn't play follow the leader? Everyone in Politics play follow the leader to some degree. Then we have our world affairs blowing up when President Bush and Chaney were is office lying to the world. It's hard to fix what stupidity does. The world trusts us a lot less after those two were done and trust is one thing that's hard to get back once it's lost. And last but not leased the whole middle east blow up and that was only because people wanted freedom. Then we have the Palestinians and their arch enemy who will never see eye to eye till everyone's dead on both sides. And we have Putin a mentally ill person who happens to be running Russia. The race divide is the other persons problems not the black man in Washington or the white man in Africa. Race problems are the racists problem not those they act against Ron.

Bargeloader

I have written E-mails to Rep. Kind on behalf of my Son in law. He did 2 tours in Iraq. Blown up 37 times. 37 TIMES..! He tried for a year to see someone. He finally got a 9 o-clock appointment one day. So did 150 other Vets. They all sign in, and their called on a 1st come 1st served basis. Nope. He never got to see anyone. He finally gave up with disgust. He did what they asked him to do. Then his country turned his back on him. This has been going on for years. Our congress and this President have failed our Veterans miserably..! Their mad alright. Their mad cuz they made fools of themselves, and now everybody knows it.... Yer in denial lookout.

Charlie

Why the big surprise Mr. Kind? Obama was alerted of problems years ago and chose to ignore them. Add that to Obamacare which has intensified the VA problem.

lookout

Charlie
Why don't you tell everyone when Obama was told about this serous problem? Where's your proof to back up what your saying? You say it as if your not giving an opinion your talking facts. Come on Charlie I'd love to see the proof? He was alerted to other problems maybe but was it this problem? If they were this problem it would have blown up long ago.

GrandpaS

Actually, lookout, MSNBC, no less, showed a memo that was sent from GW Bush's office staff to newly elected Pres. Obama in 2009. The memo tells the new president that the VA has serious performance problems and encourages the new pres to act on that promptly. In this case, the new commander-in-chief as of 2009 DID drop the ball.

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