PHOENIX - Amid persistent complaints about veterans' health care, President Barack Obama acknowledged lingering weaknesses yesterday in the federal government's response to the chronic delays and false waiting lists that triggered a national outcry over the Veterans Affairs health system last year.
Obama said that while VA Secretary Robert McDonald is "chipping away" at the problem, it was clear there was still more work to do.
"It's important that veterans know that somebody's got their backs, and that if there are problems that we're not being defensive about it, not hiding it," Obama said.
In his first trip to the Phoenix VA hospital whose practices sparked the scandal, Obama announced the creation of an advisory committee to recommend further steps the VA could take to improve veterans' access to health care.
Obama met with veterans, VA employees and elected officials, including Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, Arizona's two Republican senators. He said lawmakers specifically raised questions about the slow pace of implementing a new law meant to increase health care choices for veterans. Mental health and suicide prevention are also areas of concern, he said.
"Trust is something you can lose real quick," Obama said, promoting the need to restore trust and confidence in the VA system. But, he added, "Every veteran I talked to today said that the actual care they received once in the system was outstanding."