Tapper to WH Chief of Staff Denis McDonough: "How Many Dead Veterans Do You Need?"

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JAKE TAPPER, CNN: This letter from the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee from one year ago warns of dramatic problems at the VA, "a perfect illustration of the management failures, deception, lack of accountability permeating VA's health care system, an alarming pattern of serious and significant patient care issues."

This was sent to President Obama in May 2013, according to Congressman Miller. His office got no response from the president. It was referred to General Shinseki, who, according to them, sent back boilerplate. This is a year ago he was warning about this.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Every day a year -- whether it's a year ago, whether it's yesterday, whether it's tomorrow, the president is dedicated to making sure that our vets get the care that they have earned.

(CROSSTALK)

MCDONOUGH: And we work with Chairman Miller, we work with Chairman Sanders, we work with all of the members of the House and Senate to make sure that they have it.

That's why the president has seen dramatically expanded investments in Veterans Administration operations over the course of these last five years, year on year, historic increases in that budget, at a time, by the way, Jake, when we have seen budgets under intense pressure. We will continue to make those investments.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: How many stories like this, how many letters like this, how many dead veterans do you need before somebody asks the question within the White House, maybe this guy isn't the best steward of these veterans?

MCDONOUGH: The question, Jake, is, are we doing everything we can every day to get the veterans the care and the opportunities that they deserve?

TAPPER: But you are not. This letter was sent a year ago. And you guys ignored it.

MCDONOUGH: And we have been working aggressively to ensure that not only is health care expanded, opportunities made more ready to our vets, but that people are held to account, as Ric is doing in this case. We will continue to do that.

TAPPER: Last question, sir. And that is, I appreciate your being here and I appreciate your coming and facing these questions live on television.

Drew Griffin has been trying to get an interview with General Shinseki for months, literally. He is the one that broke the story. He's the reason there was a hearing today. Why has Shinseki avoided reporters like Drew Griffin? Why does the VA cordon itself off from accountability, not only from lawmakers and the public, but the press? Doesn't there need to be a bigger cultural change there?

MCDONOUGH: I think what you just saw today is Ric sit down for a three-hour hearing, stay in the hearing to sit to hear the veterans service organizations testify.

After Ric was done, he could have very easily just gotten up and left. Then he came out and he sat down with the press again. Ric is not only going to held himself to account to the press, to Drew, your colleague, or to anybody else, but what he's doing day in and day out is sitting down with veterans and their families and making sure that they get what they need. That's what we owe them. That's what they will get.

TAPPER: It is what we will owe them. And I hope it's what they will get.

Denis McDonough, we thank you for coming in and answering these questions. We appreciate it.

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