In the weekly GOP address, one of the Senate's few remaining veterans criticized the Obama administration's management of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Sen. John McCain cited the initial reports of veterans dying while waiting to receive medical treatment at a VA facility in his home state of Arizona, as well as the widespread scandal that's developed since then.
"Hundreds, if not thousands, of veterans have been made to suffer more or even passed away as a result of egregious mismanagement and scheduling delays at the VA. No one should be treated this way in a country as great as ours," McCain said. "But treating those to whom we owe the most so callously — so ungratefully — is unconscionable, and we should all be ashamed."
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki announced on Friday that he had accepted the resignation of Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel, though Republicans were quick to point out that Petzel was already planning to retire.
"Decent care for our veterans is among the most solemn obligations a nation incurs, and we will be judged by God and history by how well we discharge ours," McCain said in the Saturday address. "That's why I'm so deeply troubled by the recent allegations of gross mismanagement, fraud and neglect at a growing number of Veterans Administration medical centers across the country."
McCain joined calls for granting the VA secretary, currently Shinseki, new personnel management authorities.
"Congress must also give VA administrators greater ability to hire and fire those charged with caring for our veterans. Most importantly, we must give veterans greater flexibility in how they get quality care in a timely manner," McCain said, adding that "Veterans have earned the right to choose where and when they get their medical care. And it is our responsibility to ensure that they are afforded this option."
The House is scheduled to consider legislation next week that would grant the secretary more power over senior executive personnel.