(CNSNews.com) - "We must always serve our veterans as they have served us," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told a news conference on Thursday.
She said more money is needed to address the problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has seen two million more veterans added to the rolls in the last five years alone.
"This is going to take more money -- in other words, to bring the VA hospitals and clinics and facilities to where they need to be to produce results in a timely fashion is going to cost some money.
"So how do you spend that money?" Pelosi asked, noting that it could be spent on improving existing VA facilities or it could be spent on making other hospital care available to veterans. She noted that "years ago, military veterans could have access to other hospital care."
But even if veterans are able to get appointments at other federal health facilities, there's a question of geography, Pelosi said. For some veterans, getting to the other clinics would be difficult. She said she's also heard from veterans that their particular injuries require the kind of special treatment found in VA facilities.
Pelosi called the inspector-general's interim report on long wait times at the VA facility in Phoenix "intolerable" as well as "unacceptable, unconscionable and unworthy."
The report found that about 1,700 veterans in need of care were "at risk of being lost or forgotten" after being kept off an official waiting list. Veterans on the list waited an average of 115 days for a first appointment — nearly five times longer than the average the hospital had reported to the national VA, the report said.
The report said the problems are not confined to the Phoenix facility.
Pelosi said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki called her on Wednesday, to let her know the interim IG report had been released. "I have a great deal of respect for him," she said.
Firing Shinseki would only rewards those who have been misleading him, she said. "But on the other hand, we have to just get the facts as to what that was, and make evidence based decisions."