McConnell: 'We've Known for Years That the VA Backlog Was Enormous'

By Susan Jones | May 20, 2014 | 7:29am EDT

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (AP photo)

( - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says the Veterans Administration has longstanding problems that pre-date the Obama administration:

"It doesn't make any difference that he (President Obama) just heard about Phoenix in April, we've known for years that the VA backlog was enormous. I had the secretary of Veterans Administration in my office a year and a half ago on the same subject, and other members have as well.

Speaking to Fox News Monday night, McConnell said issues at the VA are a "management problem, not a money problem."

"So it's obvious that the management team needs to be changed in order to address this problem," he added.

McConnell also said President Obama should devote the same attention to the most recent VA scandal that he did to the Obamacare website, by holding "multiple press conferences, multiple communications with the American people."

"Look, this is a huge problem," McConnell said. "He needs to step up to the plate. Don't try to blame it on Bush or the Republicans in Congress. He's the CEO of the country. The VA reports to him. He ought to have the same kind of interest in this that he did in the Obamacare website and that Obamacare law in general."

Even before Barack Obama became president, he was talking about problems with the Veterans Administration: "When a veteran is denied care, we are all dishonored," he said in 2007.

Under the leadership of Eric Shinseki, the VA has been working to reduce the enormous backlog of disability claims.

The most recent scandal came to light at the end of April, when CNN reported that VA employees in Phoenix were hiding long wait times for appointments. CNN said as many as 40 veterans died waiting for care they never received.

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