Obama Orders Investigations into Report That 40 Veterans Died Waiting for Health Care

Craig Bannister
By Craig Bannister | April 28, 2014 | 10:53 AM EDT

Pres. Obama has launched investigations into allegations that 40 U.S. veterans died while waiting for health care, Obama revealed today in a press event with President Benigno Aquino III of the Philippines.

A reporter asked Obama if he would "pledge to fix" the tragedy:

Q: "President Obama, as you grappled here with all these national security challenges, I have two questions.  One, back home we've learned that 40 military veterans died while they were waiting for health care, a very tragic situation.  I know you don't run the Phoenix Office of Veterans Affairs, but as Commander-in-Chief, what specifically will you pledge to fix that?"

When Obama did not answer the question, choosing, instead, to respond to the reporter's second question, which dealt with foreign policy, the reporter reminded the president about the 40 veterans who died. Obama then announced he had ordered two investigations into the matter:

Q    "The Veterans Affairs -"

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  You got me all worked up on the other one.  (Laughter.)

"The moment we heard about the allegations around these 40 individuals who had died in Phoenix, I immediately ordered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Shinseki, to investigate. We also have an IG [Inspector General] investigation taking place.  And so we take the allegations very seriously.

"That is consistent with what has been my rock-solid commitment to make sure that our veterans are cared for.  I believe that if somebody has served our nation then they have to get the benefits and services that they have earned.  And my budgets have consistently reflected that.  That's why we've resourced the Veterans Affairs office more in terms of increases than any other department or agency in my government.

"That doesn't mean, though, that some folks may still not be getting the help that they need.  And we're going to find out if, in fact, that's the case, and I'm interested in working with everybody, whether it's our outstanding veteran service organizations or Congress, to make sure that there is not a single veteran in the United States who needs help -- whether because they're homeless, because they're sick, because they're looking for a job.  I want to make sure that they are getting the help that they need."