OTR Interviews

McCain: People should be going to jail for 'shameful' VA scandal, Attorney General Holder needs to get involved

Uncut:Veteran senator and former POW reflects on hearing on multiple scandals that have rocked VA hospitals and created a 'crisis in confidence' in Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's leadership

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 15, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now, Veterans Affair Department Eric Shinseki telling a Senate panel is he mad as hell. But lawmakers are still calling for his resignation. The V.A. secretary facing congressmen for the first time since news that veterans were dying while waiting for medical treatment.

Senator John McCain represents Arizona, where this scandal broke.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I thought it was appropriate for him to come before Congress and got before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. If he doesn't give a better answer, then I'm not sure how he wouldn't have to do anything but resign.

But, Greta, whether he resigns or not is important, but if these allegations are true, people should be going to jail.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: That's just resigning their positions.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's why I asked if the attorney general should get in, because the attorney general one who can convene a grand jury and get to the bottom of it to see if there is a crime.

MCCAIN: Absolutely. We have the inspector generate now working on it but it there's --

VAN SUSTEREN: That's the slow walk. I mean, Congress does that for every problem in Capitol Hill. Let's get the inspector general out to do it. Well, these veterans have waited an awful long time, some to their death.

MCCAIN: If many of these allegations turn out to be true, and there is ample evidence that they probably are -- I'm not drawing any firm conclusions just yet -- but everything I have seen is going to lead us to the attorney general's office of the United States of America.

VAN SUSTEREN: Should the American people also be distressed at the committee that has oversight of General Shinseki and the Veterans Affairs? Because we hear about this after the fact, after something catastrophic has happened. Oversight to me, I thought you would be monitoring it as we go along.

MCCAIN: Both Veterans Affairs Committees in the House and Senate have been made aware of problems within the V.A. My office has. We have more people who come to us with problems with the V.A. than all the others combined. And I have dedicated staffers that only do those issues. We knew about delays. We knew about problems with scheduling. We knew a number of other things. But we certainly did not hear up until an allegation that 40 people actually died while awaiting treatment.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: That's a step further.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is the explanation for these waiting lists and sort of cooking the books? Are they saying that they don't have enough money and they are trying to sort of juggle it in order to provide services? What's the explanation?

MCCAIN: They were given guidelines that they had to meet. In other words, certain number of days before certain things were done, an appointment, treatment, et cetera. And obviously, they were not meeting those criteria. So, we have evidence already of a person who was -- has been suspended who said, basically, they were cooking the books. In other words, so that they would meet these criteria and time lines that were laid down, came from the V.A. here in Washington. That's what this was all about.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I think of these members, men and women in our military, when we need them, they go. They don't say hold off, wait a little bit, we're going to cook the books. They go. This is the -- this is what we give them.

MCCAIN: This is shameful under any circumstances. It is ten times more shameful because it's being done to the men and women who have put their lives on the line --

VAN SUSTEREN: And who are hurt.

MCCAIN: -- for us.

VAN SUSTEREN: So why do we have to -- why does anyone have to wait, Americans wait for the attorney general to get on this right now? If the inspector general wants to do a report, can he do one, too, or she can do one, too? But why not demand the attorney general do it right now? Get on this.

MCCAIN: I would like to wait until the House Armed Services -- House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, which is going to be very soon, I think next week, that they are going to have that hearing. And then I think we should make a decision. I think it's appropriate to have the hearing here today, which, by the way, there was nothing presented today that would successfully rebut the allegations that have been made.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, then that's even more reason not to wait. Even if you have another hearing, there is not much you can do here in the Senate. We don't have quite the muscle that the attorney general has of the United States. That's why -- I don't get -- the hearings are informative. They are interesting. I like to cover them. I find them interesting. But they don't have the muscle that the attorney general has.

MCCAIN: We are looking at a matter of days here. And in some respects, it may be more impactful to have General Shinseki testify as the head of the V.A., the one who is totally responsible. That may be appropriate. But we are talking about a matter of days here.

And, again, like any of these scandals, and even more so, I think there is a lot of layers to this onion. Already there are number of allegations all over the country. It started as a Phoenix V.A. scandal and obviously spread.

VAN SUSTEREN: If I were the U.S. attorney in Phoenix, even though my boss, attorney general, Eric Holder, and even you, the United States Senator, holding all the hearings, I would open my own investigation and wait for the Senate to yell at me and the attorney general to yell at me. Because that's in his jurisdiction. The U.S. attorney there should be doing something, investigating.

MCCAIN: One thing about you, yet, you have you never minded people yelling at you.

VAN SUSTEREN: I get yelled at a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

And on that note, thank you, Senator.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)