Watch: Politics Win Out for Democratic Senators Ahead of Midterms
In November, the results of an investigation conducted by CNN revealed that veterans of the U.S. armed forces are needlessly dying because of delays in diagnosis and treatment — delays that resulted from staff shortages. An internal document from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs obtained by the publication painted a picture of government healthcare bureaucracy that overlooked simple medical screenings, which could have prevented a number of deaths. At least 82 veterans have died, are dying, or suffered serious injury as a result of late diagnoses that postponed important treatment.
Interviews the publication conducted with experts show that the veterans agency was aware of the situation but did almost nothing to remedy the life-threatening medical delays. Rather, the agency attempted to cover up the improprieties — and that picture of incompetence embroiled the Veterans Affairs department in controversy, and put its secretary on the defensive in front of a Senate regulatory body.
From the mounting evidence, it appears that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has failed to deliver the reform promised when he took office in 2009, as an early appointment of President Barack Obama, and lawmakers on either end of the political spectrum are increasingly calling for his resignation. For the past few weeks, criticism has come loudest from congressional Republicans. Now, Democrat Senators Mark Udall of Utah, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, John Walsh of Montana, Al Franken of Minnesota, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire have also begun to argue Shinseki should be removed from office.
All six of those senators are up for reelection in November’s congressional midterms, and given the fact that these candidates must already shake off a number of controversies — including the Internal Revenue targeting scandal, the National Security Agency surveillance programs, and Obamacare’s failures — it seems likely that a number of Democrats will deviate from their typically partisanship rather than sustain another blow to their political capital. Problems with the VA medical system have long been known by the administration, even though it took years for the public to become aware of the situation. But it was not until the VA Inspector General’s office released its preliminary report on the system’s failings — which include keeping 1,700 military veterans waiting to see a doctor at a Phoenix facility off a wait list — that supporting Shinseki became a true political liability for Democrat senators.
Essentially, the type of support the party has shown for Obama appointees under fire, namely soon-to-be-replaced Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, can no longer be maintained as the political environment grows more cut-throat ahead of the elections.
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