Obama: 'I Know People Are Angry'

May 21, 2014 - 10:05 AM

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President Obama places a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Amid increasing pressure from both Democrats and Republicans for President Obama to say something about the unfolding scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the president finally did so on Wednesday.

"I know that people are angry and want swift reckoning. I sympathize with that," Obama said. "But we have to let the investigators do their jobs and get to the bottom of what happened. Our veterans deserve to know the facts; their families deserve to know the facts. Once we know the facts, I assure you, if there is misconduct it will be punished."

Obama gave his statement after meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki at the White House Wednesday morning.

This was the president's first public statement on the issue since CNN reported three weeks ago that as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for medical appointments at a veterans hospital in Phoenix.

Obama said meeting with injured and maimed troops is one of the most "searing" experiences of his presidency.

"So when I hear allegations of misconduct -- any misconduct -- whether it's allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books -- I will not stand for it, not as commander in chief, but also not as an American.  None of us should. So, if these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period."

As of Tuesday, the VA inspector general said the number of VA facilities under investigation for falsifying records and long wait times had more than doubled in recent days, to 26.

In addition to the IG investigation, Shinseki has ordered his own review of the allegations, and President Obama -- at Shinseki's request -- has sent Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors to help with that review.

Nabors was traveling to Phoenix today (Wednesday) to meet with officials there as part of the review ordered by Shinseki.

"The president looks forward to the results both of the review and of the independent investigation that is underway and is being conducted by the inspector general," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday.

Asked when Obama expects to get the results of that review, Carney was vague: "The president obviously wants both of these two inquiries to proceed efficiently and quickly, but to be comprehensive and effective. So he's not setting an arbitrary deadline. He expects both of them -- or hopes that both of them will be, again, comprehensive and effective."

Obama told reporters on Wednesday that while he's waiting for the results of the ongoing investigations,  he wants to take immediate action on appointment scheduling and wait times for veterans.