Hagel: VA backlog, 'we missed it'

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gave his support to embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Sunday as he has come under scrutiny over allegations of deadly delays in health care treatment for veterans.

While Hagel said accountability was paramount, the potential for a backlog treating returning veterans should have been seen.

"I don't think it just started with General Shinseki's term at the VA, this is something that should have been looked at years and years ago, so yes, we missed it," Hagel said on ABC "This Week."

Shinseki will testify next Thursday before the Senate Committee on Veteran's Affairs.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates also said Sunday more needs to be done immediately to make sure veterans are getting the help they need.

"We can't wait for a congressional investigation and findings and so on. This needs immediate action," said Gates on CBS "Face the Nation." "And I'm hopeful that Secretary Shinseki will take that action. And then, as I said, hold people accountable."

CNN obtained an e-mail allegedly written by an employee at a Wyoming clinic of the Department of Veterans Affairs that said employees were told to "game the system" because it made their clinic look good.

"If this, in fact, or any variation of this occurred, all the way along the chain, accountability is going to have to be upheld here because we can never let this kind of outrage, if all of this is true, stand in this country," Hagel said.

Members of Congress are divided on whether this situation calls for Shinseki to step down from his leadership post.

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says Shinseki has had five years to fix this problem and, if he is unable handle the leadership role, it may be time to find someone who can.

"If Mr. Shinseki can't come here and tell Congress how exactly he's going to change that culture there, I think we need to find somebody who's willing to go in and shake up the Veteran's Affairs so that their number one, two and third priority is taking care of the men and women who serve this country," Rogers said on CBS "Face the Nation."

Shinseki told the Wall Street Journal last week that he would not resign over the allegations.

"I serve at the pleasure of the president," Shinseki told the newspaper when asked whether he would step down. "I signed on to make some changes. I have work to do."

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