Americans blame VA officials, not Obama, for scandal: poll
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[June 06, 2014]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than
half of Americans think Department of Veterans Affairs health officials
deserve the most blame for long, underreported patient wait times that
may have led to some veterans' deaths, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll
released on Thursday.
Only 12 percent of those polled said President Barack Obama
deserves the blame, indicating that the revelations so far have not
had the broad political fallout some experts anticipated.
"What our data indicates ... is that people really by and large see
this as more of a problem generated by local misbehavior and
institutional misbehavior," said Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson.
"To the extent that it's going to have a political fallout, it will
be as just another piece of information that feeds into Obama as
this guy who isn't necessarily totally in control of what's
happening in the federal government," Jackson said, adding that a
larger share of those who blamed Obama identified as Republican.
Fifty-seven percent of participants said they blamed either VA
health system administrators or the directors of the facilities
where patient delays were hidden.
Just 10 percent of the 1,486 participants said former VA Secretary
Eric Shinseki, who resigned last week, bears the most responsibility
for the scandal.
The poll comes after an internal audit found that nearly two-thirds
of VA health facilities surveyed misrepresented wait times for
veterans. In Phoenix, where the situation first came to light, at
least 40 veterans died waiting for appointments.
The agency's inspector general now is probing 42 separate VA
healthcare locations, and lawmakers have scrambled to put together
legislation to address the ongoing problems.
More than 80 percent of poll participants said the VA should let
more veterans seek private treatment if they face major delays. A
bipartisan deal announced in the U.S. Senate on Thursday would let
veterans obtain private care if they live more than 40 miles (65 km)
from a VA facility or face "long" waits.
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Sixty percent of respondents said the VA health system has been
underfunded, and 65 percent said it has a history of mismanagement.
But poll participants shied away from calling for drastic change.
Less than half said the department should be overhauled. And while
some critics believe veterans affairs should be handed to the
private sector, just 14 percent of poll respondents supported that
The Ipsos poll was conducted online from May 31 to June 4 and had a
credibility interval of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
(Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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