Democratic primary front-runner Hillary Clinton says the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) scandal is not as “widespread” of a problem as coverage would indicate.
She said the problem is real, but cautioned that “it’s not been as widespread as it has been made out to be” on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” on Friday.
The former first lady blamed Republicans for using the issue as part of an “ideological agenda” and said they want the VA to “fail.”
“Now nobody would believe that from the coverage you see, and the constant berating of the VA that comes from the Republicans, in – in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have,” Clinton said.
“They try to create a downward spiral, don’t fund it to the extent that it needs to be funded, because they want it to fail, so then we can argue for privatization.”
Senate Democrats blocked a bill to fund the VA earlier this month in order to negotiate a larger budget deal.
Clinton said veterans often report having a positive experience with the VA when they get treatment through the agency.
“I don’t understand why we have such a problem, because there have been a number of surveys of veterans, and, overall, veterans who do get treated are satisfied with their treatment,” she said.
Extended wait times at VA hospitals have provoked public outrage. An inspector general’s report last year found that veterans in Phoenix waited 115 days on average for an initial doctor’s appointment, while official data claimed that the average wait was only 24 days.
The report also found that 1,700 veterans were intentionally kept off of patient rolls and 40 veterans died waiting for treatment at the Phoenix facility.