Why Is ABC Trying To Turn The V.A. Scandal Into Another #Benghazi?

The scandal involving delays in care at Veterans Administration facilities continues to grow, and with it, the desperation of some media outlets to score political points against President Obama.

At Friday’s White House Daily Briefing, ABC News’ Jon Karl used false assertions to attack the White House over its support of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, a dreadful echo of Karl’s conduct regarding Benghazi.

Is he trying to turn the V.A. scandal into another #Benghazi-style clown show?

The very serious allegations under investigation now have to do with the maintenance of fraudulent waiting lists at VA facilities that have resulted in delayed care, and in deaths. The disability claims backlog is a completely separate issue, as I pointed out on Tuesday, and which Carney pointed out on Wednesday. Conflating the two isn’t just wrong. it is dangerous, because it muddies the issue, and distracts from the solution of a longstanding problem that causes immediate, tangible harm.

That didn’t stop Jon Karl, who has a long record of dishonest attacks on this White House, from making just such a connection, in an effort to attack the White House for continuing to support Shinseki. “I’ve heard you, and I’ve hear others at the White House, talk about the V.A. having a good record on dealing with the backlog of claims, and actually praising the V.A. on this issue,” Karl said at Friday’s briefing. “In light of this… we learn more about problems, not just in the Arizona office, but in other parts of the country, are you still saying the Veterans Administration’s done a good job in dealing with the backlog of claims? I mean, are you still gonna say that?”

Carney thanked Karl for the question, and reminded him of the prior several times he’s pointed out that these are two separate issues. He again pointed out the progress that’s been made on the disability claims, and the actions underway to investigate the allegations in Phoenix. “I just wanted to make sure that it was understood that the disability claims issue is not the same issue that is being discussed when we talk about the allegations in Phoenix,” Carney concluded.

“Part of the confusion is that when you, and others, have been asked about problems in terms of veterans getting the health care they need and deserve, you’ve answered with talking points on the disability claims backlog,” Karl said.

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Actually, no. It was Karl who first brought up the claims backlog, at Monday’s briefing, and got it “confused” with the Phoenix allegations, lest you think that Karl’s attack today was the result of honest confusion. Since then, Carney has, on multiple occasions, explained the difference, and warned against conflating them. His praise of Shinseki has also been more broad than the handling of the claims backlog. On Wednesday, Carney told reporters that “we’ve enrolled, at the VA under Secretary Shinseki’s leadership 2 million veterans in high-quality VA health care, reducing veterans’ homelessness by 24 percent, providing post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to more than 1 million students,” in addition to the work on the claims backlog.

Later in the briefing, Fox News’ Ed Henry badgered Carney about why President Obama hasn’t spoken publicly about the issue since he first announced the investigation two weeks ago, a ballsy move considering that Henry’s own network falsely reported that the President hadn’t spoken publicly about it at all.

All of this is not to say that the White House is necessarily correct in its support of Secretary Shinseki. The problems at the V.A. are heart-attack serious, and have been going on for a long time. The question at this point should be whether firing Shinseki offers the best chance to fix a stubborn problem at a dense bureaucracy, or should he be kept on the job to fix it. Is there someone who could step in and do it better?

To its credit, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearings have been relatively non-partisan and apolitical. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of some in the media.

Update: In a late-Friday news dump, the White House announced the resignation of V.A. Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel. Here’s a statement from Jay Carney (via email from The White House):

Today Secretary Shinseki accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs. The President supports Secretary Shinseki’s decision. As the President has said, America has a sacred trust with the men and women who have served our country in uniform and he is committed to doing all we can to ensure our veterans have access to timely, quality health care. He has asked Secretary Shinseki to conduct a review of Veterans Health Administration practices and procedures at its facilities nationwide to ensure better access to care, and that review is ongoing. This review is one of the many steps the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking to ensure our veterans have confidence in and access to the care and benefits they have earned and deserve. The President and Secretary Shinseki take the allegations around misconduct very seriously, and Secretary Shinseki has committed to taking appropriate actions based on the findings of the independent VA Office of Inspector General investigation. Both the President and the Secretary thank Dr. Petzel for his many years of service to veterans.

Update: Our old pals at RealClearPolitics are at it again, chopping this exchange down and lying about it. “ABC’s Jon Karl vs. Carney on VA Hospital Scandal: “Progress Has Happened” Under Shinseki” is their lying headline, when Carney was, if course, talking about the disability claims backlog. Let’s see if they change it. Good company you’re in, ABC News.

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  • Floyd Howard Jr

    Because Veterans are principled, committed, have proven
    ability and are fearless they are a threat to liberal progressives and fall
    under the ideological cleansing policy of the Democrat party. Veterans will be
    eradicated through neglect by the V.A., subdued by discrimination and
    vilification or executed in the streets. Veterans, the country we fought for
    and many died for is plotting our demise! We have to take back our future. The
    enemy is moving fast to secure their stranglehold on our future. What more can
    we lose but our lives if we don’t wake up!!

  • ken bowser

    Hey, are you a white house plant? And why didn’t you tell us that Dr. Robert Petzel, who is resigning, actually announced his resignation last freaking year. So, nobody and I mean NOBODY, has been held accountable. In my 57 years, I’ve never seen an administration as corrupt as this one. I was a lifelong democrat until last year and I’ll never vote for another just because of the corruption.

    • reggid

      Liar.

  • bobby1122

    Transparent Obama administration is the most trusted ever. They have never lied about veterans or their love of veterans and the importance of honest medical care. Barak : ” If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor_ Skank Obama LIED 37 times using these words. This deceit of bad Veteran’s care is not a single place incident.

    • Aaron Litz

      That argument is the lamest attack on the ACA you people tried to come up with aside from “Death Panels.” If you like your doctor, you CAN keep your doctor, as far as the ACA is concerned. It is Insurance Companies pulling dirty tricks on their own initiative that is forcing anyone to change doctors. Trying to claim otherwise is either being disingenuous or flat out stupid.

      So which is it; are you being purposefully deceptive and pretending you understand less than you actually do, or are you just an idiot?

  • johnhay

    It’s the media’s job to hold those in power accountable, whether it’s a president you like or not. Every president has things that happen on his watch, or that he does, that are embarrassing. This sounds like Nixonian paranoia to think there’s some effort to unfairly hold Obama accountable for what’s happening in his administration. It’s the job we elected him to do.

    • Rollo Tamasi

      “It’s the media’s job to hold those in power accountable”

      And what’s wrong with pointing out when the media does that poorly or unethically? Surely, you don’t have a problem with that? Surely, you can concede that this has happened on a number of occasions, can you not? I know for a fact that Jonathon Karl lied. He said “I have obtained the emails . . . ” that was a lie. He was given incomplete summaries of emails by congressional Republicans. A fact that he failed to disclose at the time.

      That was unethical journalistic behavior in my opinion. And how was HE (Karl) held accountable?

      • ken bowser

        Ok, you tell me one thing that you think Obama lied about?

    • reggid

      “Hold Obama accountable.” LOL — you mean lie repeatedly to try to crate fake scandals, don’t you?

  • D. Alexander

    I have said for a long time that they could get rid of the entire first row and get some real reporting, maybe?

  • Tom Blue

    Well, the answer is obvious: ABC is trying to gin up some anti-Obama points and they are hoping against hope that they’ve found at last their Whitewater. It isn’t just Jon Karl at ABC with credibility problems, you’ve got Brian Ross and a whole string of dishonest and credibility-challenged “reporters” there.

    But any one of these so-called “reporters” if they actually cared about the issue as opposed to relishing the opportunity to “ding Obama” could write a good 3,000 word piece on the problems with VA Medical Care. And the meat of the problem is two-fold — bigtime IT problems and staffing problems.

    1) Obama administration put out the mandate to digitize (further) every aspect of VA Healthcare, and have it merge successfully with the military healthcare system, and they’ve had Big. Time. failures doing that. You think Obamacare website was bad? Nothing, nothing like the massive problems with the VA. And it’s a federal-sized problem, not confined to the VA system. Some of them are still on DOS-based systems. It boggles the mind.

    2) Staffing. The reason you have uneven VA health care across regions is that places like Phoenix don’t have a world-class teaching hospital to draw expertise and collaboration. The VA in Westwood is first rate in every way. despite a staggering load. But you have UCLA and Cedar Sinai right next door, you have several nursing schools around, and you have expedited hiring practices. But they are still lacking nurses, (and not physicians so much) but the level of staff they can recruit is world class. Not so in places like Phoenix.

    I won’t go on, but I wanted to illustrate that there are great stories to be written about this issue, if the goal is to inform and “do something” other than “ding Obama.” They could also write a 3000 word piece on how the Republicans, including John McCain, have blocked ANY funding to rectify these *two* backlogs. It’s Congress’ job, after all, to provide the funding and tools to provide for our vets. And they aren’t doing that.

    And the media is too damn lazy and too cozy with the Republicans to do *their* job. So we get that kind of mindless crap that you detail here, Mr. Christopher. Thanks for stay on top of it.

    • ken bowser

      Funding isn’t the issue. They have plenty of money and the administration said as much and they’ve already blown their horn several times about increasing their budget. That is discretionary spending therefore congress has nothing to do with it. Peoplle are currently shredding documents and people created these lists to make themselves look better and get themselves a raise all at the expense of our vets. These people should go to prison.

      • reggid

        Aw, another butt-hurt Greenwald groupie is here. Hey, Ken, they have medicine now that can treat your Obama Derangement Syndrome — it’s called “reality.”

  • Jason E

    Let’s tackle their healthcare so we can start dealing with the high level of homelessness.

  • reggid

    How does the serial liar Jon Karl still have a job? Are basic ethics no longer required at ABC? The jackass got caught red-handed lying in his Benghazi reporting, yet here he is again, being a dishonest hack.