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Obama to review progress at troubled Phoenix VA hospital

By Amy R. Connolly
Obama to review progress at troubled Phoenix VA hospital
President Barack Obama and VA Secretary Robert McDonald plan to meet with officials at the Phoenix veterans affairs hospital on Friday. Photo by Dennis Brack/UPI | License Photo

PHOENIX, March 13 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama plans to visit Phoenix's Veterans Affairs hospital Friday, considered the epicenter of a nationwide mismanagement scandal, to evaluate the pace of progress in meeting veterans' health care needs and to discuss efforts for more improvements.

Obama is expected to announce an advisory committee with private and public sector leaders to develop more effective ways to provide health care to veterans and their families. The move comes after former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki resigned in May amid a scandal that saw VA workers falsifying records to hide how long veterans were waiting for care.

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The president and VA Secretary Robert McDonald are expected to meet with former service members, veterans' groups, VA employees and others to learn more about the problems and what is being done to correct them.

The White House said wait times are now shorter, backlogged disability claims have been cut and the number of mental health professionals employed by the VA has increased.

In January, Obama was criticized for ignoring the problems when his motorcade drove past the Phoenix hospital for another meeting.

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"In some ways, he's returning to the scene of the crime," Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the Washington Post.

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