(Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday that there will be a thorough investigation into the allegations of veterans receiving inadequate medical care across the country, noting that this has been a decades-long problem that needs a major response.
"We know that it often takes too long for veterans to get the care that they need. That's not a new development. It's been a problem for decades," Obama said at a press briefing in Washington, D.C.
"Folks who have been fighting on the battlefield should not have to fight a bureaucracy at home to get the care that they have earned."
In April, news broke that at least 40 U.S. veterans died after they were allegedly stuck for months on a secret waiting list to see doctors in the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Healthcare system.
Obama said that he has commissioned VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who is facing calls for resignation, to investigate the allegations in Phoenix and at other facilities and prepare a report, which is expected to be ready in June.
"I want to know what's working, I want to know what's not working, and I want specific recommendations," the president said.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said on Sunday that Obama is "madder than hell" over the issue.
"The president is madder than hell, and I've got the scars to prove it, given the briefings I've given the president. Nobody is more outraged about this problem, right now," McDonough said.
American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger, who has called on the VA chief to step down, previously criticized the White House response.
"We realize that the administration has done a lot for the veterans. But that isn't the issue. The issue is we're having veterans die waiting for the care that they've earned," Dellinger told White House Correspondent Major Garrett. "And it all goes back. And they keep talking about waiting for this study to be done. Well, there's been almost 50 IG reports, from our understanding, from what the (UNINTEL) testimony on Thursday that this has been an ongoing problem."
In his statement on Wednesday, Obama recognized that while many Americans are angry over the issue, "we have to let the investigators do their job to get to the bottom of what happened."
The president declared that as the commander-in-chief, he cannot stand for a situation where military men and women are not receiving the care that they need, and noted that he has been working on the long-standing issue ever since his run for the U.S. Senate.
Obama also promised that his administration will do everything that it can to bring the outdated veterans care system "into the 21st century."