Ret. Col. Rob Maness, who is the conservative GOP Senate candidate in Louisiana, said there should be criminal charges for anyone in President Barack Obama’s Veterans Administration (VA) found to have broken laws in the scandal involving secret waiting lists. At least 40 veterans reportedly died in Arizona while waiting for medical care on these lists.
At an event in Louisiana on Sunday, Maness, who has been endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, blasted the unaccountable bureaucracy that may be rewarding executives with bonuses for cutting costs and corners regarding care for veterans and suggested the country may be better off if the Pentagon had oversight over the VA.
“We veterans have understood for a long time that the VA system is slow and clunky, but now we know that some of our fellow veterans were not just victims of bureaucracy but of willful neglect, all to ease the workload and save some money. And they died because of it,” Maness said. “I support full accountability for all those involved who made the decision to do this to our veterans, and I support criminal charges where the laws were broken.”
The agency’s chief watchdog will conclude an “exhaustive” investigation and considering whether criminal charges will be warranted this summer, according to Fox News.
The White House said Obama found out about the scandal in his own administration while watching television reports even though he had been briefed about the wait-time problems veterans were facing. Obama and Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki have said they are “mad as hell,” but have only forced an official who was slated to resign later in the year to leave his post a bit early.
Maness said that even a senior officer like him who has been briefed about his benefits has had trouble receiving care in the inefficient system.
“Being a disabled veteran myself, I understand what it’s like to go through the VA process. I don’t pull any rank or identify myself when I go into the system, because I want to see what’s going on, and I’ve seen some pretty atrocious things in the VA system here in Louisiana,” he said. “It took me over two years to get my initial claim settled, and it was just a vanilla medical record claim with no changes. I can only imagine what happens to everyone else.”
After noting that America is spending trillions of dollars on the VA, Maness asked, “How many people have had 100% positive experience with the VA? Not even a senior officer does.”
“And I was personally briefed by my benefits guys when I left the Air Force. I had personal briefings every day, and I still didn’t know enough, and still don’t know enough today,” he said.
He suggested that the country could possibly “do away with the entire VA bureaucracy” and “put oversight back under the DOD and build up relationships with private entities like Byron’s Home [Magnolia Care Center] and give veterans a card that says, ‘I’m a veteran. I’m 90% disabled. I have access to medical care’ etc.”
Maness said that such places will allow veterans to easily swipe their cards and figure out what benefits they have.
“And it’s because it’s private, that’s why it’s so successful,” Maness said. “And it focuses on getting the job done for our veterans.”
In endorsing Maness, Palin described Maness distinguished record of service, which included his rescue efforts on 9/11 at the Pentagon:
She hailed Maness, who has wrestled an alligator in a campaign commercial, as a “true conservative” for “opposing amnesty, pledging to protect our Second Amendment rights, and promising to defund Obamacare.” And then promptly ripped Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the Republican establishment’s preferred candidate who “opposed President Reagan in the past and was actually a supporter of Mary Landrieu until recent years.”
In fact, Cassidy has donated thousands of dollars to incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), which will make it tough to run against her in a general election, and Democrat Kathleen Blanco. Cassidy mocked Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Ronald Reagan in the past and openly supported Michael Dukakis. In addition, he campaigned for TARP and now claims he opposes it, which will make it even more difficult for voters in Louisiana to differentiate Cassidy from Landrieu.
Louisiana has a “Jungle Primary” on November 4. And if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two will face off in a December runoff. Cassidy has consistently trailed Landrieu in head-to-head matchups because voters even as the Republican establishment pushes him.
“Louisiana, Col. Rob Maness fought for us for 32 years. Let’s fight for him these next six months and let him continue to support and defend our Constitution in the U.S. Senate,” Palin said while endorsing him.