tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN May 15, 2014 6:30pm-8:31pm EDT
and she told me about welles and his fearless spirit, and she showed me a handkerchief like the one he wore that morning. and today, as we saw on our tour, one of his red handkerchiefs is on display in in us, inost live on themamilies who love still, in the friends who them always and in a honor them nowl and forever. and today, it is my honor to introduce two women forever day, united in their determination to keep of 9/11, true spirit
here today but i wanted to do so tothat i could say thank you his mom and dad. crowther'sles wther., alison cro for us, he lives on in the people he helped and in the he chose to do september.y in welles believes that we are all human family,ne that we are here to look out for one another.or this is life's most precious meaning. it is our greatest hope that and seeple come here welles' red bandana, they will eachber how people helped other that day, and we hope that they will be inspired to do the small. ways both big and
this is the true legacy of september 11. hadidn't realize what happened until that afternoon. son, todd, that our was on an airplane. i thought he was in italy. was off by a day. know, we kind of define our history now, don't we, as pre-9/11 and post-9/11. bits of a are some wristwatch and its function is supposed to be to tell time. it was a good watch, it did its job very well, but it doesn't anymore. time it is but what it does tell is what
recovered at the site of the 93 near flight shanksville, pennsylvania. it was given to this museum by his loving family. we are honored to have his us heredavid, with today. todd was one of 40 men and women plane, strangers, all bound for san francisco. decide to take fate the their own hands at probable, if not certain risk of their own lives. when the hijackers took control their plane, people began calling family and friends who otherhem about the hijacked planes. none of the passengers had been this kind of scenario, let alone each considered such a nightmare. , after talking over what they had learned, they joined with members of the crew to cockpit, and in doing
of they changed the course history. it was later shown that their fromns prevented the plane reaching the hijacker's intended target, washington, d.c., a mere 20 minutes away. their lives, how many lives had they saved? one of the first calls made from plane had been for mark bingham who later helped form the plan they followed. he had called his mother, alice, alice later left him this message. mom.rk, this is your apparently it's terrorists and they're hell bent on crashing the aircraft. there's one point they say is towards san francisco. it might be yours, so if you can, group some people and do everything you can to
astonished and grateful at how from all over the world responded. it was as if the entire world door, criedg on our with us and asked what they could do. 90 countriesver died on september 11, and so, the world understood that while this happened on our soil, it of us.d to all letters arrived from australia india,dan, gifts from ireland and kenya. of people from all walks life and speaking every language came to help us dig out from and bandage our wounds. tightlyd felt like a knit community, a smaller, more caring place. this is how goodwill begins. the understanding that we are, underneath all our many
differences, fellow men and women with a love and a sanctity human life. the here in this museum we are pause and remember andmany came to help us, that the true gift of friendship fellowship can be borne out night, for which we all grateful.rnally this song to my calvin joseph gooding. amazing grace, how sweet the that saved a wretch like
60th floor and i walked in my the way. the rest of myer that, i still walked in stocking feet 50 more blocks to get to a friend's office, barely one piece. when i heard that the museum was artifacts, i thought about my shoes. i had put them in a plastic and when i took them out, they still had the smell on them from that awful day and i knew i would never wear them again. themo i decided to donate here. nieces and my nephew person that asked what happened to see them and maybe betterand a little bit what it felt like to be us on that day. [applause]
>> a simple pair of shoes, what could they possibly tell us about 9/11, about the choices close calls, about the quarter-mile climb down a staircase filled with falling ceilings, crowded with and confusion, about not.g it out or ordinary, everyday objects that we find here in the museum, a wallet, a ring, an i.d. card, a telephone, are unlikely, but help us keepsakes which understand the events of that day in human terms. piece carries with it another story, one that might our own. ofdon't we all own a pair
shoes we wear to work, that could have been the ones we wore that day. steps theyhe last 38 walked to freedom and to life narrow outdoor veesyase that led to street. were also the last above-ground remnant found at the world trade center site. they became both a symbol of that terrible day and the months of painstaking recovery. the 56 tonoved staircase from its concrete base as carefully as one would a sacred object from an archaeological site so it could be placed in its new home inside the museum. today, when you walk down the museum's last set of stairs that bedrock, whether you
walk slowly down the wide, staircase or stand comfortably on the moving will travel right streetthe veesy staircase and as you do, imagine for a moment that these hard concrete stairs were once for people the last and survival.t path to my name is kayla bergeron. tower forn the north four years. that day, everyone on our floor, people who knew each other, and who didn't, started walking down stairs together. and forrderly and calm
every step we took down, the wereighters and police climbing up. the sixth floor, it felt as if the whole world shake. to it turned out that the south tower had collapsed. was confusion. we were climbing over wires and desks. port authority policemen helped us find our way through. friend, patty and i got wearated from everyone, and were long thinking, there's no out. then we heard a bullhorn, said if we could hear the sound, follow the light. this way, and that way, likefter what seemed forever, we got to the outdoor veesy staircase. had walked those stairs 100
stop to go to the train, at the post office, never given a second thought. but now, they were all that separated us from the devastation behind us and life us.ront of today, when i think about those represent tothey me is resiliency of the people that day trying to help each other and later, the resiliency of our country. steps mean everything. [applause] >> we will never understand why person escaped and another
didn't. seems and howall feel,ess it makes us all but what this museum does is allow us to see, is that we can affect each other's lives by what we do at a of crisis, how we are strengthened by what was done that day. september 11 brought out the largest emergency response in city history, 1,000 firefighters, 2,000 police officers and 100 city and voluntary ambulances rushed into action. fell, logickics says no one could have survived tale.ved to tell the the south tower fell and no one survived. in the meantime, the men from
the new york city fire department and port authority thece were still inside north tower attempting to rescue the remaining civilians. reached the third floor, the 107 floors of the of them.er fell on top crossnant mickey remembered that he heard a huge wentand then everything dark and totally silent. in debris, he tried to by makingmself himself so small that he might be able to climb into his helmet. when he heard faint voices realized he he wasn't alone. signals, hoping someone might hear them. passed. outside, there was nothing but wreckage.iery
not only could rescuers not locate the north tower, they know where to begin, digging andy kept digging.nd my honor to introduce you to mickey cross and 11 members the new york city fire authority and port police department, all of them had been trapped together. god bless them and god bless america. [applause]
>> we were trapped way down after a dark hole and while, we saw the small beam of light, about 30 feet above us. it was sunlight that it broken through the smoke, and even it only lasted for a little while, it was enough to let us know there was an opening. it under out the rescue workers could see it, too. finally came towards us, they couldn't believe we had out ond and could walk
our own. they continued to look for other survivors. 14 of us trapped in the stairwell trying to stay out., searching for a way miraculously we survived. we saw complete devastation. the whole trade center was gone. all you could see were huge pieces of twisted steel, fires everywhere. and workers, never giving up on people. after our rescue, many of us the rescue and recovery teams at ground zero to do for done forat had been us. we had to. had come together at ground zero to help each other out. a real sense of caring for one another. this is something we should never forget and never stop doing. thank you.
am manuel rodriguez and i localember of teamster's 282. in heavyat ground zero construction for nine months. is pia hoffman, i'm a crane operator and i worked if for eight zero months. favara, i'm atony detective in the new york city emergencyartment service unit. i worked at ground zero for nine months. >> my name is steve butler. i'm a lieutenant with the port authority police emergency service unit. i worked down at ground zero for months performing rescue
and recovery. after learning -- losing my brother, tommy, a firefighter with squad company number 1, i was the first person to put his piece of steel which we call the last column. others followed signatures.s and the last column was part of the last area that was searched. >> it really tells three stories, the building, the destruction and the cleanup effort. >> as the site was cleared and the beam came to stand alone, people that were working at the family members began affixing the photos. >> everybody was putting sayings notes on the column. we had a flag flying atop of it the site. an icon on
>> the sheer size of it, the number of signatures, farewells ones butto lost loved also to this new family that developed on ground zero. we all became this family that worked together to try to make other families feel better. to fill in a going hole but if we made it a little smaller, that was all we could do. signed the column or not, that column means something to us. the job and we did a job well done. >> i think that last beam symbolizes the best of what humanity can do. heartbreaking things we had to learn how to do most september 11, the
and the most -- difficult -- was finding a way person whoery single was on those four planes, in the pentagon or the world trade center towers, and those who save them. to to give their families, and us, to come and remember them. now, near where we are now, filleds such a place, with the photos, keepsakes and we lost.f those of memory.ur book and the area called memorial three-storystands a high wall connecting the footprints of the once mighty south towers. on it are written 10 simple great poet,e
virgil, that express what this museum is all about. "no day shall erase you from the of time." from there, you walk through to the wall of faces lined from smiling ceiling with fathers, daughters, brothers, family, and loved ones. in the same way we have photos homes, these pictures are alive with the memories of weddings,ays and barbecues and baseball games, of we lost. what you will be looking at are pages of the chapter in our september 11.l >> that's a good picture. it is.
>> you would be so proud of your daughter. she's amazing, just like you. >> see all these faces, .ifferent people wow. you.at's anna, that's this is a couple of weeks before 9/11 actually happened. last family picture. >> i love this one. >> yeah, that's him. that's your smile, that mustache. you act just you look like him. you act like him. >> and sound like him.
>> i love that picture. you were 3 and you were 2, remember? i know all these names now, you know? >> mary, corey -- although she's taking care of herself and wants to look as pretty as possible she is never above -- >> all her friends there. >> yeah. she hung out with them. remember when she told us she had gone to the biker ball the night before. and it was embarrassing but now we're doing the same stuff. >> and when he heard the call on the radio, he saw his partners, we got to go. and he just ran up the stairs. and he just held the cab. and he went straight to those
buildings. and he did what he had to do. he had to go help people. >> so spontaneous. and get off. we're going here. this is something different today. and felt that life was too short. and i think i learned that. on that day. >> right there. that's uncle robert. >> that's robert. >> adopted you. and named you. >> roberta chope chen. because i was the new hope for the family. >> that's right. >> and i am his niece and namesake. >> yes, you are uncle robert's iece and namesake. ♪
>> this is a place where thousands of stories converge. where we can touch the face of history. our history. and yet, while we come here to remember the past, it is the future, too, that stands with us in this hall. to truly honor that day, we must promise both to keep our memories of it alive and to search for ways to build something positive in the names of those we lost. they were the pride of their families. and the pride of their countries. their stories, their spirit, and their examples can live on as our guides and our beacons by making their names and their lives stand for something meaningful in our world. what greater legacy can there be for the lives cut short than to live in the good works
created in their names? >> my name is ada rosario dolch and my sister wendy worked in tower one of the world trade center. i worked two blocks away as the principal of a high school that encouraged leadership and public service. that morning, it was my job to protect our 600 plus students. but i couldn't protect my sister. my whole life has been about educating children. after wendy died, i was with friends and said, imagine if we went to afghanistan and we built a school there, what a kick in the head to osama bin laden. kathy olteron and others joined forces and four years after 9-11, a school was opened in my
sister's memory in the province of harat, afghanistan. [applause] about 200 boys and girls came to study and since then many, many more. all of them entrusted with education and their country's future. there can be beauty out of the ashes. it's hard work. but it can be done. >> my name is jim lacheck, my younger brother dave was at his desk at the pentagon on september leven. he was a civilian working for the department of the army. after the attack, many wondered, how will we remember those we lost? as family members, we needed to find a way to honor and remember them and in the process, maybe find a way to heal ourselves.
working together with friends, colleagues, families, supporters from around the world we opened the pentagon memorial on september 11, 2008. it is a place where we remember 184 men, women and children, a place to provide solace and healing surrounded by the beauty of life. my brother, dave and i had been young together, and we expected to grow old together. play a lot of golf. and argue about who had the better looking grandchildren. now there will be children born after 9-11 who only read about that day in books. some of them might even think the people it happened to weren't real. but we are here to help them know that they were. my hope now is to create an educational center at the pentagon memorial where school children can come and spend some time getting to know their country's story and very real people who lived it. [applause]
>> we would like to end our dedication ceremony on a note of hope. that all the visitors to this museum, those who lived through the tragedy, and those young enough to be learning about it for the first time will come away with a sense not of the worst of humanity but of the best. there are hard lessons -- hard history lessons to be learned here. but also shafts of light that can illuminate our days ahead. to all those who have worked so tirelessly to bring this museum and its ideals to life, we owe you our deepest gratitude and appreciation. and special thanks to joe daniels, president, and alice greenwald, director of the 9-11 memorial museum. [applause]
this museum is a testament to the resilience, the courage, and the compassion of the human spirit. that lies within each and every human being. so i think it's only fifth, then, that we bring our ceremony to a close with one of aaron copeland's most enduring and life-affirming pieces. fanfare for the common man. ♪
testified about long delays in patient care at veterans hospital in arizona. that situation has prompted a congressional subpoena with some groups calling for secretary shinseki's resignation. you can see that hearing tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span. and earlier today, in london, british foreign secretary william hague discussed the upcome elections in syria and the situation in ukraine. his is 20 minutes. >> good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. i want to begin by expressing my deep condolences to the people of turkey over the terrible mining disaster. foreign minister davatola has been with us today. and i've said to him the u.k. stands ready to assist our friends in turkey in any way that we can. and the ministers gathered for the friends of syria core group meeting and observed a minute
of silence in memory of the lives lost in turkey. i've hosted a series of meetings this morning, starting with a meeting of the foreign ministers of france, italy, germany and the united states and the u.k. to discuss the crisis in ukraine. we unanimously welcomed the ukrainian government's efforts to promote constitutional reform including the first meeting of the national dialogue that was held yesterday. this is clearly a successful first meeting and we strongly welcome that. and we welcome the fact that preparations for the presidential elections on may 25 are proceeding well. and the great majority of ukraine. we strongly supported the work of the osce. including the work of president burkeholter of switzerland and also the work of the osce on the ground. the united kingdom has already committed nearly two million pounds to the osce for their work in ukraine.
and i can announce an additional contribution of another 500,000 pounds to the special monitoring mission. it is vital that there are enough monitors and enough resources to monitor and to report truthfully on what is happening on the ground in ukraine. and we call on other osce partners to do likewise and to increase their support for this vital effort. we all agreed at the meeting that russia's behavior toward the election will determine whether or not wider economic and trade sanctions will be applied. by the united states, and by the european union. we all agree to continue preparations for these sanctions. while of course urging russia to stop any actions that prevent the elections going ahead peacefully. we were then joined on the on the subject of syria by the foreign ministers and ministers of turkey, saudi arabia, the
united arab emirates, qatar, jordan, egypt. to make up the -- these are the countries that make up the core group of the friends of syria or the london 11. we held some detailed talks including with president al jarva and prime minister tomi of the syria national coalition. we are united in our disgust and anger at what is happening in syria and the regime's utter disregard for human life. we've already seen the deaths of over 150,000 syrians. and we have agreed a short communique, first of all, condemning the assad regime's unilateral plan to hold illegitimate presidential elections on june 3. we say in our communique that this mocks the innocent lives lost in the conflict. utterly contradicts the geneva communique and a parody of
democracy. many millions of syrians will be unable to participate in such a so-called election and we call on the entire international community to reject these illegitimate elections as the arab league, the united nations, the united states, turkey, and the european union have already done. we've also agreed unanimously to take further steps together through a coordinated strategy to increase our support for the moderate opposition, national coalition, and for its supreme military council and associated moderate armed groups to do everything we can to hold the assad regime accountable for the terror it is perpetrating including through security council referral to the international criminal court. to work together to counter the rising forces of extremism and to complete the removal of syria's chemical weapons. and to step up our efforts to deliver humanitarian aid across borders and across lines. irrespective of the consent of
the regime. and we say at the end of our communique, we have directed our officials to implement a core group action plan. the united kingdom for its part adding to that will provide an additional 30 million pounds, $50 million in practical support to help the opposition. we have also decided to upgrade the status of the national coalition's representative office here in london to a mission in recognition of the strength of our partnership. we will also with other countries, we will increase our humanitarian assistance to areas not being reached by the ufment including by funding cross-border aid. and the u.k. has now allocated 76 million pounds for such cross-border operations. we will step up those efforts. and we will strongly support a new u.n. security council
resolution to compel the regime to allow humanitarian aid into syria and to halt its starvation and surrender tactics. we will as i mentioned in reference to the communique, we will strongly support the principal -- principle of a resolution referring the syrian regime to the international criminal court. in that regard, i'm also delighted to have the national coalition's full support for our declaration of commitment to end sexual violence in conflict. which has been so widely used by regime forces inside syria. and i've invited a representative to attend the global summit to end sexual violence in conflict, taking place here in london from the 10th to the 13th of june. so we have had a strong and united and purposeful meeting which involves the stepping up of support to the moderate opposition in syria. and concerted action at the united nations. we will work over the coming weeks to implement these
commitments. including to increase humanitarian assistance and we will work together, we will intensify how closely we work together, given the deepening crisis in syria. because we are all determined to respond to it. so that is what we have been doing this morning. and secretary kerry i know is coming down to speak to you shortly. and there's time for a few questions. >> thank you, foreign secretary. it's pretty grim time in syria as you said. the crisis there is deepening. peace talks haven't worked. president assad has regained territory. he's holding elections. the opposition, different groups are fighting each other. they seem weakened. gone are the days when you can say not just assad, moscow, but he will go. is it time to reassess your strategy based on the likely
survival of his regime? and if i might a second question on ukraine. can you be a bit more clear about what it is russia has to do or not do in order to avoid deeper, broader sanctions? because you say they must allow the election to go ahead peacefully. but what is it -- it looks as though the election will go ahead so does that mean there aren't going to be deeper sanctions? >> well, on the second point, it depends on russia's behavior over the next 10 days before the first round of the presidential election in ukraine. and of course we have to remember there may be a further round. we don't know the -- whether any candidate will achieve an overall majority in that election. so there could be a further round in the middle of june. and over that period, as president obama and chancellor merkel made clear in washington, some days ago and as we made clear in brussels, on monday, russia's attitude and behavior toward those
elections will be the determining factor. and whether we need to apply wider sanctions. it's understandable to ask, well, what is the exact definition of that? but of course we can't give and wouldn't want to give an exact definition of that if we set a red line, russia knows that they can go up to that. red line. without those sanctions. but we are very clear, it is the ability of those elections to take place, russia's behavior toward them. since efforts to disrupt the elections can take many different forms. that's not something we can define in advance. but we have clearly served notice on russia that destabilization of those elections intensified efforts by russia to prevent them from taking place will be what determines the attitude of the whole western world toward the application of wider economic and trade sanctions.
on the question about syria reassessing strategy, clearly we have to now assess our strategy based on the situation getting worse in syria. we have always been of the view that there will not be a military victory for either side. for any side. and that remains our view. including by the regime. and there may be some who believe they can win a military victory. but that is not available to any side. that is why it's always been clear that it has to be a political solution in the end. and so that -- that analysis remains the same. but in the meantime, many more people are being displaced. many more people are being killed. we have to step up our efforts to make sure a moderate opposition stays in being. and that it is able to function. they have done a good job, i
congratulate president aljava of the national coalition how they conducted themselves in the geneva negotiations. and all the steps they have inclusive cluff -- among the people of syria and particularly among different religious groups and different communities. they have done a good job. but they have to be kept in being. they have to be given additional help. otherwise, syrians face a choice between the between -- between the assad regime and extremist. it is a credit to the coalition they are able to take on extremists and continue their opposition to the -- to the regime. and so we see ourselves as acting in order to make that possible. and in order to make it even clearer to the regime. that there is no military victory available to them. that is the -- that's the extra dimension if you like to our
strategy on what we've discussed today. next question. microphone is on its way. >> you say that now there remains a political solution but the way everybody is seeing at the moment, with resigning his position and his successor and elections going on in syria what's new in the dynamic that can get a little process there? is there anything you can add come out of the talks today? and if i ask a second question about safe havens. there's fear the opposition will be run out of the little space that they control. as the regime continues to win battles. so is there any possibility of trying to impose the safe havens even though it is a difficult decision to make? >> well, we haven't -- i don't have any announcement to make about safe havens. clearly that -- that requires a very different approach. militarily and would require in
the view of many countries, it would require a clear mandate in the united nations security council. that clearly is not available given the russian attitude to these matters. and so i don't have any new announcement to make about that. a political solution has clearly become more distant since the geneva talks earlier this year were not successful. do pay tribute to lakdar brahimi and thanks to him and the work he has done in one of the world's most difficult jobs. over the last year and a half, or so. he has made every effort, and he made very clear when the geneva talks broke up earlier this year, that it was the refusal of the regime to discuss a transitional government. which was responsible for the end of those talks. the national coalition were prepared to do -- and put
forward plans for a transitional government drawn from opposition and from the regime. the regime have refused to do that. that has made a political solution more distant. our message today, and the actions we have decided on today, and the actions we will decide on in the further meettion that will follow from today, will demonstrate to the regime there still has to be a political solution. they may think it doesn't have to be one. but there will have to be one. it is not possible. for them to conquer the whole of the people of syria. militarily. given how much blood has been shed. given the extent of the bitterness of the divisions that have arisen. and so if they think the world is going to turn away from supporting the national coalition, they are mistaken. we will be stepping up not giving up on our support for the national coalition. and that is a very clear message from all of the
countries that were gathered here today. of course, there are different countries among the london 11, the core group support in different ways. depending on our own legal and political situation in each of our countries. but that support will be stepped up. and therefore the need for a political solution is still very much there. sorry. i'm giving long answers to these but these are important questions. next question. >> is there any point in pressing ahead with plans that you've mentioned often and repeated again today to try to refer syria to the international criminal court? taken your own observation about the russian position, is that not just gesture politics? another point if i may briefly, you talked about countries using different methods to support the syrian opposition. there are a lot of reports recently about the syrian opposition groups receiving
more advanced weapons. we know that president java has been lobbying for this intensively and publicly in washington. is that armed support something that you have discussed today? >> well, different countries do provide assistance in different ways. and it's for them to speak about the support they provide. i can speak about the support the united kingdom provides. which is nonlethal assistance, the extra 30 million pounds have just announced today is nonlethal. assistance. be clear about that. and it's still important assistance. it will help to save lives. it will help services to run in parts of syria that are not under the control of the regime. and we have been able to resume our assistance to the national coalition after having to suspend it when some of their stores fell into the wrong hands. we have a level of confidence in how they can control the
supplies given to them. has improved. so we're able to do that. that's what the united kingdom does. but of course you will have to ask secretary kerry about the support the united states intends to provide or other countries what they provide. we all help in different ways. but as i've always made clear in parliament, our support, which is overwhelmingly humanitarian, of course. the support that is not humanitarian is practical. but it is not lethal. so we have not entered into those discussions as the united kingdom. and one more question? and then we must let you get set up for secretary kerry. > thank you. foreign minister, it sounds like you're declaring bankruptcy somehow on the policy on syria. that there's really nothing new that we can talk about in this meeting more or less. am i correct in saying that? and also, i wonder if you have
discussed the rise of people like nasra and what are you doing about this in practical terms? thank you. >> we have discussed the need to increase further coordination which has of course begun some time ago on tracking and preventing the flow of foreign fighters into syria and all the ministers have raised that. the spread of extremism, the threat of the spread of terror across the wider region is a major reason for the rest of the world to do everything it can to try to resolve the conflict in syria. it wouldn't be right to say there is nothing new in our meeting today. because as i've sat out in the communique, we have -- we decided to increase our support in various ways. for the moderate opposition, and the supreme military council. to press ahead with the various matters i've talked about at the security council. to increase our coordination on countering extremism.
and to complete the work on the chemical weapons. to step up delivering humanitarian aid across borders. and to have further quite urgent meetings of our officials on a coordinated core group action plan. so this is a very clear statement of this is a clear statement of intent by these nations to work even more closely together. support, to step up our for the national coalition, and before i forget, i did not answer the question about, what is the point of the security council putting forward things that some countries may veto? and make the argument that we sometimes get there in the end. ofhave faced long months opposition to any resolution on humanitarian matters, but in the end, we succeeded earlier this year in passing resolution 2139 on humanitarian access. these arguments gained ground in
the international community. we want the assad regime to know that there are very powerful nations in the world, very powerful forces in the world that are determined to see justice done one day. if we are frustrated now, if we are prevented now from referring the situation to the international criminal court, it is something we will return to and the people of syria may wish to return to in the future. yes, sometimes these things take a long time, but it is a very clear statement of what -- of where we intend to end up. thank you very much. i don't want to keep you waiting too long for secretary kerry. i know you want to reject the room a little bit, and we will make space for him. thank you very much indeed. also in london, we heard remarks from secretary of state john kerry on the upcoming elections in syria set to take
place june 3. he spoke for a half-hour. >> good afternoon, everybody. first of all, let me just think foreign secretary william hague for his terrific posting today, convening all of us together to a numbero talk about of challenging issues we are facing together. after today, we have an even better sense of direction. we gathered here, i think it is safe to say, frankly more united than we have been in some time. remain committed to changing the dynamics on the ground in syria. since we last met, the opposition has itself taken some significant steps forward to expand their leadership, to expand their reach into syria,
to become more effective. we know, as you know, we just and hishe president delegation in washington for a number of days with a series of meetings, including meetings with the state department, the white house, and the president. the truth is, we all know that the grave humanitarian crisis is growing more dire. the bloodshed and the suffering of the syrian people have not stopped. voice, weone unified made it clear that we remain committed even more so to taking steps that could in fact make a difference. most importantly, we start in one unified voice with rejecting any notion whatsoever that the
elections that the assad regime has called somehow have any legitimacy whatsoever. there is no way for this illegitimate effort, for this impossible set of circumstances for an election to somehow give legitimacy where there is none. unified ine are saying that assad's staged elections are a farce, they are oninsult, they are a fraud democracy, on the syrian people, and on the world. is that this cynical political theater he is engaged in will not change one thing the day after it happens. his status in the world, his position with respect to future , and thep in syria
potential of any resolution will be exactly where they were the day before the election, although perhaps slightly worse because of the fraud of this effort. i mean, ask yourself, how do you have a legitimate election when half the people in your country are displaced and not able to vote? how do you have a legitimate election when an -- when another sovereign -- several million people are in refugee camps unable to vote? you have an election when hundreds of thousands of people are scattered in various countries in the region seeking safety from assad? it is just impossible to believe that under those circumstances, where people are hunkered down in their homes, intimidated, afraid to be able to come out, afraid of being forced to do one just haveother, you no climate, no framework within
which you can talk about legitimacy. that weagreed today have to redouble our efforts, all of us, in support of the moderate opposition in order to bring about a peaceful resolution that the people of syria want. that requires the full support of the international community, and that was really the focus of our discussions today. ,'m sure your question would be what is different today? look at the length of the communiqué. it is short, and it is purposefully short. it purposefully points to the elections and then to the , and the mosts important sentence is the last sentence and which it points out that our teams are going to come together in very short order now to lay out a specific set of steps that we can and will take together in order to have a and therepact here
isn't anybody who didn't come together today with the realization that there have been hurdles over the course of the last year. from the time when foreign and i announced the possibility of a geneva conference in moscow last year, about a month earlier than now, things changed on the ground. hezbollah entered the fight. iranian forces entered the fight on the ground, and more terrorists were attracted to the , regrettably assad thereby creating a framework where some of the opposition was fighting terrorists, not assad. that is a very clear and simple reality of what has taken place over the course of a year. that has changed. greaterhink, there is a level of coordination, a greater level of unity, a greater level of understanding of purpose, and over the next days as those teams meet, there will be a
serious definition of steps that can be taken in order to have a greater impact. the united states is committed to doing our part. each country today sat there and discussed what they felt they could do to grow the effort. that is what is different. that the, we announced syrian opposition coalition representative offices are now for emissions. -- foreign missions. provideorking to nonlethal assistance and speed up delivery of assistance to the free syrian army. the treasury department has imposed new restrictions and sanctions against members of the regime, and we will continue to strengthen our ties with the i thinkpposition, as you've seen firsthand in the visit to washington this past week. on behalf of the united states,
i want to extend our deep concern for the two british journalists who were shot and who were beaten while trying to share with the world the real story of what is happening in syria. this is not the first time that courageous reporters have been part of the heartbreaking story of syria. far too many journalists and innocent civilians have been hurt, killed, or held hostage in just two days ago in washington, we met with one of the families, with many of the families actually, of those being held in syria. we are keeping up a very focused effort to try to secure their release. we reiterate our respect and admiration for the reporters who put their lives and their liberties on the line to tell the stories to the world that otherwise people would never learn.
let me also say a quick word about to other issues that we touched on this week. libya. and lidia -- we had a very good discussion this morning with the british, french, german, italian foreign ministers. on ukraine, we welcome the successful national dialogue roundtable in kiev that took place yesterday and the very tookconversation that place on decentralization, constitutional reform, and protection of minority rights. we hope that the separatists, the russians, we hope that others who are disgruntled by what has taken place will take note of the legitimate effort to try to reach out, bring people to the table, and find political compromise. we are absolutely committed to the notion that there must be a protection of these minority rights, and we support the
government in kiev's efforts to reach out with serious concrete plans for increased autonomy and decentralization. i would note that the level of decentralization and autonomy that the prime minister has anyculated far exceeds level of autonomy or decentralization that exists anywhere in russia. i think it is important for everybody to note that. we believe that the process of the roundtables coupled with the ofction provides the people ukraine with an opportunity to be able to heal the divide, and that will now be encouraged through a second meeting of a roundtable that will take place in eastern ukraine in a few days . this morning, we also underscored the vital importance of a free and fair presidential election across ukraine on may
25, including, importantly, the eastern provinces. we are also working with the ukrainians and the osce to protect the rights of all ukrainian citizens and to make their voices heard through the ballot box in a legitimate election. we call on the separatists and russians to respect this election process, to help to make it happen even, to encourage ukrainians to be able to define their future. that is the best way to de-escalate the situation. we believe that this effort to legitimize an election and move to have a broad-based election, lccording to the constitutiona process of ukraine, is in stark contrast to the agenda of the pro-russian separatists and their supporters who are literally sewing mayhem and communities.- in
far from defending the rights of people in east, they are seeking to speak for everybody through the barrel of a gun and through their own narrow sense of what they want for an outcome. that if this morning russia or its proxies disrupt the election, the united states and those countries represented here today in the european union will impose sectoral economic sanctions as a result. our message is really quite simple -- let ukraine vote. let the ukrainian people choose their future. let them do so in a fair, open, free, accessible election. libya, the united states and our quintet partners our sharedtoday commitment to the stability and security for the libyan people and for the region.
we agreed that we need to do more. a understood that there is challenging moment and libya. we need to try to accelerate the efforts to bring about stability and security and the governance necessary to provide the time and space for libyan authorities to be able to confront the threat of extremism and the challenges that their country faces of providing governance to their people. in that light and in support of the libyan government, we are working collectively through a --ber of different envoys the arab league has an envoy, great britain has an envoy, we have an envoy -- they will work in concert, and we tasked to one to be working as entity, not as individuals out there. we are going to do everything we can to help the libyans in these next days to try to be able to gain control over their revenues
and begin to forge the kind of coalition that can actually begin to build the offices of governance that are necessary. this is a small country. 6.5 million people. smaller than the state i foresented in the senate almost 29 years. i know something about what you can provide when you want to. libya is a country rich in resources, rich in people with talent and capacity, and we hope that in the days ahead we are going to be able to tap into and find a way to help the libyan people to move forward to have the kind of stability and peaceful governance that they aspire to. with that, i thank you, and i would be happy to take a couple questions. >> thank you, mr. secretary. put your i think you foot -- your finger on what the question is, what is different after today? in terms of u.s. policy, could
you tell us whether the united states is prepared to do what britain has done, which is to change the way its aid is sent into syria and start sending it through ngo's or other means instead of through the united nations? on the expanded aid you've talked about the both the military and political sides of the opposition, the president has publicly called for increased weapons assistance, portablelly surface-to-air missiles, to stop the syrian government's air attacks against civilians, including the barrel bombs you personally haven't announced. are you prepared to take this step or allow your allies to take this step, and if not, why not? finally, on syria, foreign said in fabius washington this week that france is seeing evidence of 14 chemical attacks by the syrian october.t since
secretary hagel said yesterday that the united states has seen no such evidence. is this because you haven't seen what the french have seen, or that you have seen it and don't find it conclusive? thank you. >> well, let me take them 1, 2, 3. we are open to the idea of providing aid through any means that will get to the people who need it. while the decision has not been categorically made, i repeat -- and we are open to anything that will get the aid to the people, and we are very frustrated with the current process. it is not getting to people. it is going through one gate, one entryway, and it is going controlled byus the assad regime. that is unacceptable.
we are, in addition to that, we are going to, in the united nations security council, challenge the appropriate level of follow-through that is necessary to be able to fulfill what was passed in the resolution previously a few months ago in order to guarantee that delivery of aid. it is not being fulfilled. it has to be fulfilled. our patience is gone. we are going to join with other countries in an effort to try to guarantee accountability through the u.n. and making that happen. we are determined that people will be able to get aid. forle who left homs, instance, did so because they were literally under siege. they were being starved to death, civilians and others, and that is against the laws of war, not to mention anybody's
fundamental values of decency. obviously not a sound's -- a ssad's. we intend to pursue this issue in the days ahead. on the issue of weapons, i'm not going to discuss what specific weapons, what country may or may not be providing or not providing. as you know, we are providing nonlethal aid, but i will say that out of today's meeting, every facet of what can be done is going to be ramped up. every facet. that includes political effort. it includes the aid to the opposition. it includes ethnic -- economic efforts, sanctions. today, we announced additional sanctions. they will be -- there will be a ramped up effort to make it that despite the fact that assad may think today he is doing better and this process is somehow going to come to a close
with him sitting pretty, the answer is no. not going away. the opposition is not going away. we are determined to reach a political settlement that protects all of the people of syria. i want to make it clear, à la light, other minorities -- a lawite, other minorities can be protected here. assad is only protecting himself. by doing so, he's making partnership with terrorist ,lements, attracting terrorists engaging in terrorist activities against his own people, and i don't think anybody today felt the deterred one iota in the notion that there might be a better route, another route other than a political settlement, which can only be brought about when he is prepared to negotiate. as everybody looks at lakhdar
brahimi's resignation and makes heudgment about it, performed valiantly against a great odds, but if the parties aren't prepared to perform according to the standards they have accepted to negotiate on, there is nothing an intermediary or negotiator can do. we remain committed to trying to find that solution, and i'm not going to discuss specific weapons systems or otherwise, except to say that every possible avenue that is available is going to be pursued by one country or another. on the third issue, the issue of i suspect -- i haven't talked to secretary hagel about what was in his mind or what he was referring to with respect to -- chlorine is not listed
on the list of prohibited items by itself free standing under the chemical weapons convention, but chlorine when used and mixed in a way that is used as a chemical weapon in the conduct against the chemical weapons treaty. i have seen evidence -- i don't know how verified -- it's not verified yet, hasn't been confirmed, but i've seen the raw data that suggests that there may have been, as france has suggested, a number of instances in which chlorine has been used in the conduct of war. if it has and if it could be proven, then that would be against the agreements of the chemical weapons treaty and against the weapons convention that syria has signed on to.
>> secretary kerry, to follow up on your last point, if it is proven that chlorine was used as in war, whichpon is prohibited, what will the syrian government face? what steps can you take? i want to go back to the point of military aid. i know you won't go into details about the system. what i would like to ask you is, are you more confident now in linked toyrian army the use of weaponry by the fsa? i think the free syrian army -- i will do the second part first -- the free syrian army has clearly improved. it has clearly gained in its capacity. it has gained in its command and
control. it is also now being supported moremorse -- a coordinated way. it is much more concentrated. we think that they are making progress. you know, are they a trained army in the context of a nationstate that we measure things by in many places? no, not yet, but they are improving and under very difficult circumstances holding their own, in fact making gains in certain parts of the country. we are committed to continue to be helpful to them and give them greater capacity in many different respects. everybody there today shared in that commitment. the cw andt to
what the consequences are, it has been made clear by president use wouldothers that result in consequences. we are not going to pan ourselves down to a precise time, date, manner of action, but there will be consequences if it were to be proven, including, i might say, things that are way beyond our control and have nothing to do with us, but the international criminal court and others are free to hold him accountable. as you know, we have a resolution that will be in front of the united nations with respect to culpability for crimes against humanity, atrocities in the course of this conflict. one way or the other, there will be accountability. >> mr. secretary, you just told us that you and the four eu
foreign ministers agreed that sectoral sanctions will be russia or russia if its proxies disrupt the may 25 elections. earlierminister hague referred to russia's specific interference. russia has denied western reports of supplying weapons, personnel, and coordination to the separatists. will russia be held accountable and responsible for actions of even if theyts, cannot be proved as a link to russia itself, or what is the criteria that you and that you use?oing to the second part of that question, we understand that the approach receptions is going to be a scalpel, not a hammer. does that mean it won't be a iran-style bans on sectors of commerce, and does it on futurell be a ban deals with an exemption for existing contracts? >> i will not get into announcing today what the
precise sanctions are come except to say to you, we have completed our work. we know what they are. we are ready. , we had state department and treasury personnel here in europe working with our european allies in order to define precisely what that road ahead should be. indeed, our hope -- i'm not going to get into characterizations of scalpel or sledgehammer, except to say to you that they are effective, and if they have to go into effect, they will have an impact. obviously, the purpose of it is to have a greater impact on the target than it is on the people imposing it. we will be thoughtful, and we are being thoughtful, and we are being very deliberative in trying to make determinations about what is appropriate, what is not appropriate.
our hope is not to do this. our hope is not that we have to go to the next stage. i say to the russians and everybody -- our hope is to de-escalate. we appreciate the president putin made a statement about the elections, sort of acknowledging that they would take place, probably a good thing, i think was his language. we acknowledge that he said that the referendum should be stopped , but it didn't stop the referendum. what we need to make certain is that people aren't trying to have everything both ways. william hague a few moments ago told you that it is in the attitude and behavior that you make this judgment about what is being done. i'm not going to start laying out a whole series of definitions, except to say to you that it is clear what proxies mean.
if russia or its proxies disrupt the elections, stand in the way of the ukrainian people being able to exercise their vote, that is when and if there would be additional sanctions, but our hope is that russia will join in to encourage the vote, that russia will encourage pro-russian separatists to say that they should work through the process that has now been opened up, that russia has helped insist on, that that process now be given a chance to work through the osce and otherwise. that is our preference. that is what we want to have happen. our hope is that there can be a concerted effort to try to put the confrontation behind us and put the effort to build ukraine in front of us and to try to do it together. that makes a lot more sense. that would be our hope for a direction. thank you all. i appreciate it. [captioning performed by national captioning institute]
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] >> in a few moments, today's hearing on the state of veterans health care beginning with testimony by veterans affairs secretary retired general erbling shinseki. in a few hours, the senate committee continues the hearing with comments from veterans groups. then a third panel that includes the acting inspector general. later the federal communications commission considers a bill about internet. >> convergence, you use that word throughout your book, what does it mean? >> it means that throughout the country there's a convergence of left-right agroment on very important things that is being pushed down by the corporatist grip on both the democratic and
republican party and their leaders so we start, for example, with public opinion, doesn't matter, red state, blue state, they are upset with the patriot act restrictions on privacy and civil liberties and free speech. there's a big convergence. they don't like subsidies, handouts, giveaways to corporations on the backs of taxpayers, especially the wall street bailout where no crooks were prosecuted and put in jail. they want a crackdown on corporate crime. big business, they think, gets a wayy a lot of stuff. it's a main street vs. wall street nexus. they don't like empire. right, left they don't like empire. they don't like us pushing around all over the world and into countries an losing our soldiers and they come back traumatized and weathsing trillions of $s while all these people around the country see crumbling public works. america needs repair. and we're blowing it up overseas
with trillions of dollars and not repairing. that's a convergence issue. >> ralph nader on alliances to combat government spending. that's sunday on "q&a." shinseki said eric says he's, quote, mad as hell" over the treatment of veteran at veterans hospital, adding that if these allegations are true, they're unacceptable. he faced a barrage of questions from republican senators who called for his resignations as well as democrats who suggest he needs to shake up his management team. the secretary's two-hour testimony is followed by representatives of veterans organizations. on the days is the chairman of
members will have three minutes, and i will keep people to three minutes because it will be a long hearing it, and that we will go to secretary shinseki, and the undersecretary. excellent second panel and a very good third panel as well. it will be a long hearing, and we will get through it. let me begin by just making a few basic points. serious allegations have v.a. personnelt in phoenix and other locations. i take these allegations seriously, as i know every member of the committee does, which is why i have supported an thependent investigation of
v.a. inspector general, and they are in phoenix doing a thorough investigation, and my hope is the report will be done as soon as possible. what i have stated and i will repeat right now, is that as soon as that report is done, this committee will hold hearings to see what we learned from that report, and how we go forward, as soon as we possibly can after their investigation is completed. i think there is no member of this committee who disagrees, and nobody in the united states, that this country has a moral obligation to provide the best quality care possible to those that have put their lives on the line to defend this nation, and i believe that every member of this committee will do everything that we can to get to the truth of these allegations, but if we are going to do our
job in a proper and responsible way, we need to get the facts judgment, ando one of the concerns i have, to be honest, is there has been a little bit of a rush to judgment. the happened in phoenix -- truth is, we do not know, but we're going to find out. that me say a word about v.a. health care in general, which is what this hearing is about. what we want to know about v.a. health care is what is going well, what is not going well, and in terms of what is not going well, how do we improve that? today, we must understand that when we talk about v.a. health care, we are talking about the largest integrated health care system in the united states of america. has 150 medical centers, over 800
community-based outreach clinics, and 300 vet centers. every year, the v.a. is serving 6.5 million veterans. tenant -- today, tomorrow, and week, every single day, v.a. veterans, and what does that mean? here is my point. if senator burr and i would run around and visit every v.a. medical center, we would suspect say i have would good health care, i was treated curiously, i like my doctor, and then you would find people that say i did not like my doctor. the point that i want to make is when you are dealing with 200,000 people, and if you did better than any other health institution in the world, there would be thousands of people every single day that would say i do not like what i'm getting,
and we have to put all of that in the context of the size of v.a. does v.a. in general provide quality care to veterans? simple question. the answer is some people think that it provides very good quality care. the american customer satisfaction index ranks customer satisfaction among the best in the country, and if you talk to veterans generally speaking, in vermont, not 100% -- they say we get good health care, are the problems, absolutely, and we will talk about those problems. servicealing with --"ected injuries said this v.a. is a model provider that has led the way in various areas
of biomedical research, specializing is, graduate training for all health professions, and the use of technology to improve health care." say "suchn to expertise cannot adequately be replicated in the private sector . of the paralyzed veterans of america will testify "the simple truth is v.a. service is the best care for veterans, and they are incredible resources that cannot be duplicated in the private sector." today, the representative for all 50 states will tell us " the state of v.a. in our nation is strong here at -- strong." further, and i know this is not fit in a 12-second soundbite -- this point has to be made -- there is no question in my mind that v.a. health care has
problems, serious problems, but that the rest of health care in america is wonderful. that is not the world we live in. let me give you one example because it is important to put v.a. health care in context. article,fic american september 20, 2013, less than "how manygo, states, die from medical mistakes in u.s. hospitals? an updated estimate says it could be 200 and 10,000 -- 210,000 a year. hospital errors that caused death are now the third leading cause of death in america behind cancer and heart disease." what does that mean, has death
been reported through medical errors in the v.a.? the answer is yes, and everyone of those deaths is a shame, but it is not just v.a.. it is the. leading cause of death in american hospitals. that is an issue we have to settle. having said that, there is no doubt in my mind there are serious problems facing v.a. health care, and we have to do everything that we can to address those problems. let me just discuss a few. does the v.a. have adequate staffing? when we talk about patient wait times, which is a major concern in certain parts of the country, and its issue came up in phoenix land town meeting was held by the american legion, wait times came up, and is the v.a. adequately staffed?
do we have enough doctors and nurses in various parts of the country? i do not of the answer to that, and that i want to find out. further, is the v.a. doing its job in allocating the resources to where the staff is needed most? there are some places in the isted states where v.a. load going down, but your people are coming in, and other places where it is increasing -- are we allocating resources appropriately? let's are member, in the midst of all of that, we are dealing with 200,000 men and women that have come back from iraq and ptsd, not anith easy problem to address. the weight measure was way -- change to 14 days. is that appropriate? can there, did that with the level of staffing that they have? \ we have to discuss that. what happens to those that are not able to bring patients and
within the 14-day period? some possible that in cases unrealistic expectations have created a situation where some staff is in fact, cooking the books?i want to look at that. with that, i look for to hearing to get at the root at some the health care problems facing the v.a. and i want to give the microphone to ranking member senator burr. >> to wreck, mr. chairman, thank you for calling this hearing. -- thank you, mr. chairman, thank you for calling this hearing, and secretary shinseki, thank you for being here today. we have a sacred obligation to ensure that those that have fought for this nation receive the highest quality of services from the department of veterans affairs. now, the chairman's opening remarks -- he was correct. we are not here to analyze a
pole that was taken about the look att we are here to the investigations that have already taken place and addressed certain deficiencies ystem that veterans' s no action was taken on, or at least not corrective action. in fiscal year 2013, v.a. reported that 93% of specialty and primary care appointments, and 95% of health care opponents are made within 14 days of the desired date. at first glance, the numbers appear to demonstrate veterans are receiving the care they want when they wanted, however we know this is not the case. i think if v.a. had asked hard questions regarding the statistics, we would not be here today discussing recent allegations surrounding many -- and i stress many --v.a.
facilities. more specifically, we are here to discuss when senior leadership became aware that local v.a. employees were manipulating wait times to show that veterans do not wait at all for care. it seems that everyday there are new allegations regarding inappropriate scheduling practices, ranging from zeroing out patient wait times, to scheduling patients in clinics that do not even exist, and even to booking multiple patients for a single appointment. the recent allegations were not only reported by the media, but have even been substantiated by the general accounting office, the inspector general's office, and the office of the medical inspector. here are a few examples -- the gao released a report on scheduling oversight in december, 2012, and has
testified multiple times on this issue. several ig reports have been issued regarding delays in care and scheduling the regulators including -- irregularities, including reports in texas in 2012, and up to the most egregious report in september, 2013, at the columbia v.a. medical center. two publicly released documents related to whistleblower allegations that jackson, v.a. medical center, and a four jackson immunity based outpatient -- community-based outpatient clinics. other reports that have been released, v.a. senior leadership, including the secretary, should have been aware that the a was facing a national scheduling crisis. leadership has either failed to connect the dots, or failed to address this ongoing crisis, which has resulted in patient
harm and patient death. the question that we must answer they is even with all of information available to the secretary starting over one year and a half ago, and specific instances of patient harm and death directly related to care, why were the national audits and statements of concern from the v.a. only made this month? i yield back. >> thank you, senator burr. senator murray? >> thank you. i'm glad you called this hearing. when it comes to caring for nations heroes, we cannot accept anything less than excellence. the government made a promise and one of the most -- one of the ways we uphold that is making sure veterans can access the health care that they need and deserve. why the department generally offers high-quality health care and does many things as well as or better than the private sector, i am very frustrated to
be here once again talking about some deeply disturbing issues and allegations. it is extremely disappointing that the department has repeatedly failed to address wait times for health care, so i was encouraged when you announced a nationwide review of access to care, and i am pleased that the president is sending one of his key advisers, robert neighbors, to assist in overseeing that radio. his perspective from outside of that department will make the review more credible and effective, but announcing this review is just a first step. these recent allegations are not new issues. they are deep, systemwide problems, and they grow more concerning everyday. when the inspector general's report is issued and the access review report is given, i expect the department to take them very seriously, and to take all appropriate steps to amend their recommendations. there are also cases where the facts are in right now. there are problems that we know exist, and there is no reason
for the department to wait until the phoenix report comes back before acting on the larger problem. the gao reported on the a failures with wait times as will -- at least as far back as the year 2000. last congress did a great deal of work around wait times, particular for mental health care. inspector general at the these problems in 2005, 2007, and again in 2012. each time they found schedulers across the country were not policy.g v.a. they also found in 2012 that v.a. has no reliable or accurate way of knowing if they are providing timely access to mental health care, but now the ig recommendations are still open, and the department has not limited legislation that i offered to improve the situation. clearly, the problem has gone on far too long. it is unfortunate that these leadership failures have
dramatically shaken many confidence in the system. secretary shinseki, i continue to believe that you take this seriously and want to do the right thing, but we have come to the point where we need more than good intentions -- what we need is decisive action to restore veterans' confidence in the v.a., create a culture of transparency and accountability, and change the systemwide, years-long problem. this needs to be a wake-up call for the department. the lack of transparency and accountability is inexcusable and cannot continue on. the practices of intimidation and coverups have to change starting today. giving bonuses for hospital directors for running a system that places priority on gaming the system and keeping the numbers down rather than provide care for veterans has to come to an end, but to my mr. secretary, it can not and with just dealing with a few bad actors, or
putting a and fill of employees on leave. -- handful of employees on leave. you must lead the department in a place where we prioritize the candidates receive about anything else. the culture at the v.a. must allow people to admit where there are problems, and ask for help from the hospital leadership, or from you. this is the time to make real changes. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mrs. murray. mr. isaacson. the would like to have openingr. boozman's statement be included in the record and we wish a speedy recovery. should have a rush to accountability. durham,ore phoenix,
fort collins, the others that have come to matter, we already known and the v.a. has already admitted to 23 deaths that took place in part at least due to delays in consult. seven were in my area. four were at the va hospital in atlanta, georgia, all mental health issues. was in my state for a two and a half hour hearing on the atlanta situation, and we knew and determine then there were problems with the delays that caused an open period of time where in fact they took their lives because of a failure to get the service that they should have gotten. sincee had 50 ig reports 2013, and in those reports we have found repeatedly over and over again where there has been a gaming of the system, where the system is more important than the patient. i think our veterans, and you,
secretary shinseki, deserve better from the members of the v.a. health system. i told you yesterday on the phone when you were generous enough to call, i think the veterans and yourself have been mr. by the senior management of the v.a. we need accountability. what is going on is not a mystery anymore. we will find out more from the ig port, but i hope we get -- report, but i hope we get accountability in the chain of command where you are held responsible for your response ability, mistakes are not tolerated, one mistake might be tolerated, but the second mistake on the same decision should never be tolerated. you for for -- thank being here today, and on behalf of the state of georgia, and united states, let's get this right, make sure no veterans die because of failure to the system -- of the system. senator isakson. .enator blumenthal
>> thank you for holding this hearing that i hope will be bipartisan and as nonpolitical as it possibly could be. , secretaryk you shinseki, for your service to our nation. over many years you have served and sacrificed for this nation, and i deeply respect and thank you for all you have given to the united states of america, including in your six years as secretary of the v.a., and i know you are determined, as the president is determined, to unravel and convio -- unveil any wrongdoing and restore trust in the v.a. health care system. i agree with the chairman that we should avoid a rush to judgment, but we have more than allegations at this point. we have evidence, solid evidence of wrongdoing within the v.a. system, and it is more than an of wrongdoing, and it is a pattern and
practice, apparently, of manipulating lists and gaining the system, in effect, cooking the books, creating false records, which is not just an impropriety, or misconduct, it is potentially a criminal act. it is a pattern, as the chart submitted by the american legion as addendum c shows. there is a pattern across the country, in more than 10 states, of this misconduct occurring. history.on, there is a the gao has reported, your own inspector general has reported these kinds of problems in the past. so, there is a need now for more than just investigation. there is a need for action to restore trust and confidence, to assure accountability and our nation's and
veterans deserve the best medical care, nothing less with the situation now presenting serious, pressing, unanswered allegations and uncertainty is foundrable, and i have that the resources now at the disposal of the inspector general are sufficient to meet this challenge. i think there is a need for more than just the kind of appointment the president has made to oversee the department of veterans affairs, there is a need for resources going to the inspector general, and possibly involvement of other agencies from the federal government because the resources currently available simply might be insufficient. in addition, there are 300,000 job openings across the country in the v.a., they are listed on thatobs.gov and i urge issues relevant to medical care
the field immediately, and that actions be taken to restore, not only the transparency and accountability that we all expect from the v.a., but also to deal with the disability claims, backlogs that continue to plague the v.a. the question now is what does the evidence show? is it criminal, or simply civil? and that judgment needs to be made as soon as possible. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator blumenthal. .enator heller >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you for taking time to be with us today, and for the veterans in the room with us and those watching the hearing, thank you for your service. what has come to light about the v.a. in recent months has proven
to congress, the president, and the american people, is that there is a problem with accountability at all levels within the veterans ministry should. that nevadalem veterans are facing, and it is not something that is new, and in fact it is something i have raised repeatedly with the v.a. to no avail. i think it is long overdue for this committee to exert oversight and hold leadership within the v.a. accountable. last week i sent a letter to senator shinseki asking for immediate answers about the lack of accountability on the local level, and whether the v.a. leadership finally plans to do something about it. i look forward to receiving a timely response and action on the concerns that i highlighted. as nevada's presented on this committee, i believe it is also my role and response ability to get answers for nevada's veterans for the problems they are facing with benefit. they have complained of access -- excess weight times in emergency rooms, which in itself is too small to meet demand.
there was anago, inspection of a blind female veteran that waited five hours in the emergency room and two weeks later died. the ig also found that one quarter of the veterans in the emergency room wait over six hours before receiving care. veteranore, a las vegas wrote me a letter recently and said he had to find care elsewhere because the wait time for an appointment at the v.a. was longer than two months. , i wantese concerns assurance that all of nevada's v.a. medical centers and clinics will be fully audited, and that i will receive and be able to review the results immediately. as the cochair of the v.a. backlog working group, i am concerned with the claims backlog in nevada. although the secretary promised me that would be changes, nevada veterans are still waiting the longest, at 355 days on average, for the claims to be processed. when my office requested the
status of claims, it was unresponsive. it is unacceptable that veteran officials would limit any ability to get answers for the veterans. despite my repeated requests, these ongoing issues have not been resolved. ifsome point i have to ask these problems in nevada are the demonstration of failed leadership at the time. -- at the top. it is failing to care for those that sacrifice on our behalf. promises to change and do better for veterans have not produced results. i want changes, not empty, says. if the v.a. continues on this course, i think it is time to alternately looked to the top 40 changes. thank you -- top for these changes. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. .enator hirono >> to her, mr. chairman for holding this