Americans are none too pleased with President Obama’s handling of the Veterans Affairs health care scandal. A new Gallup poll shows that 63 percent of Americans disapprove of his response to the ongoing revelations of mismanagement, including alleged cover-ups and the hidden lists of veterans waiting for treatment.
The poll shows that the majority of respondents – 69 percent – said that they’ve been following the issue very closely or somewhat closely, which is well above the engagement average for other current event stories. All of this increased attention on the VA scandal and the negative views of Obama’s handling of it could have an impact on this year’s midterm elections, Gallup’s Art Swift suggested.
“The VA scandal could remain on the minds of Americans for quite some time,” Swift said in a note. “At the moment, a strong majority of Americans are following this matter closely, and Americans give the president low marks for his handling of it. This may have implications for policies and politics in 2014 and beyond.”
The VA’s long wait times and hidden lists of veterans waiting for medical care first came to attention earlier this spring, when CNN reported that at least 40 veterans had died while waiting for care on an unofficial wait list at a Phoenix VA facility. Since then, a federal audit has revealed that the problem is “systemic” and happening nationwide. At least 42 other VA medical centers are under investigation.
Gallup also asked respondents an open-ended question: How would they fix the VA’s broken health care system?
The most common responses included providing better and more timely care; overhauling the agency’s staff; and enforcing stronger oversight of the facilities. Just 9 percent of respondents suggested more funding for the VA – a popular solution among federal employees and groups representing them.
The poll comes one day after the Senate overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill to reform the VA’s health system. The bill, crafted by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), would allow veterans facing long wait times to seek care from private doctors. It would also expand the VA secretary’s authority to fire employees for poor performance and authorize the department to lease 26 new health facilities in 17 states. In addition, it provides $500 million to quickly hire new VA care providers.
“If there is a definition of emergency, I would say that this legislation fits," McCain said, as Reuters reported. “We’ve got to get a good bill on the president’s desk next week,” Sanders said.
The measure will be reconciled with a similar House version. Lawmakers on both sides are confident that a measure will be approved and sent to President Obama within the month.
“We have two million new veterans because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have a multitude of problems we’ve never had in other wars before,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told Politico.
“So I certainly hope that we can arrange quickly an opportunity to move forward.”
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