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VA health care nominee withdraws

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's choice to be the top health official at the Veterans Affairs Department withdrew his nomination Thursday, saying he feared his confirmation could spark a prolonged political battle.

Jeffrey Murawsky, health care chief for the VA's Chicago-based regional office, was nominated last month to be the department's new undersecretary for health care, replacing Robert Petzel, who resigned under pressure. Petzel had been scheduled to retire later this year but was asked to leave early amid a firestorm over delays in patient care and preventable deaths at veterans hospitals.

Murawsky now oversees seven VA hospitals and 30 clinics in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan, including one in suburban Chicago where there are allegations that its staff used secret lists to conceal long patient wait times for appointments. Murawsky was a doctor at the Hines, Illinois, hospital and technically remains on staff.

The White House said in a statement that Murawsky feared a prolonged fight over his confirmation, adding that he believes the role is too important not to be filled quickly.

Obama accepted Murawsky's withdrawal and will move quickly to find a replacement, the White House statement said. The VA is required by law to convene a commission to seek and review candidates for the position, which oversees the 9 Veterans Health Administration, the largest single health provider in the nation with 9 million patients, 150 hospitals and 820 walk-in clinics.

Robert Jesse, Petzel's chief deputy, has served as acting undersecretary since Petzel resigned May 16.

Meanwhile, acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson was making a visit Thursday to the Phoenix VA medical center, where reports about veterans dying while awaiting appointments set off the furor resulting in retired Gen. Eric Shinseki's resignation last week after holding the top VA job in Obama's Cabinet the past five years.

An interim inspector general's report last month said veterans in Phoenix wait an average 115 days for a first appointment - five times longer than the 24-day average the hospital had reported. The inspector general said more than VA facilities nationwide were under investigation.

The VA said in a statement Thursday that officials appreciate Murawsky's service to veterans and respect his request to withdraw his nomination.

Murawsky's withdrawal comes as the Senate moves forward on a compromise bill to help veterans avoid long waits to see a doctor and make it easier to fire administrators who falsify records to cover up long wait times.

Hopes for a vote this week were dashed, but senators said they would press ahead on a measure to address an uproar over veterans' health care following allegations that veterans have died while waiting to see a Veterans Affairs doctor.

Senators had wanted to pass the bill before Friday's 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Europe in World War II. As many as a dozen senators were expected to attend the D-Day ceremonies in France.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, had said Wednesday he was "cautiously optimistic" that a vote could be held Thursday.

Sanders and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona were leading negotiations on the bill, holding two closed-door meetings Wednesday to iron out details. The senators met again Thursday.

The main stumbling block appeared to be when and under which circumstances veterans could turn to doctors and other providers outside the 1,700-facility VA system for what is largely free care for them.

The two lead negotiators couldn't agree on how to define it. Sanders said the primary issue was waiting times, while McCain said it was giving veterans a choice beyond the VA for receiving care.

A bill sponsored by Sanders would allow veterans who can't get timely appointments with VA doctors to go to community health centers, military hospitals or private doctors.

McCain would rather let veterans who can't get a VA appointment within 30 days or who live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic go to any doctor who participates in Medicare or the military's TRICARE program.

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napa422 June 05 2014 at 3:29 PM


Flag Reply +54 rate up
24 replies
Doubledaddy June 05 2014 at 4:30 PM

We have the most corrupt Government to ever exist in the Free World led by a community organizer with absolutely no experience in even running a lemonade stand. Lord rid us of Government corruption. My opinion.

Flag Reply +35 rate up
9 replies
prnyl June 05 2014 at 3:21 PM

Endless cluelessness from President Obumma- no idea at all what is going on under his watch- He only knows how to lean on the teleprompter, read what is presented to him and FINGER WAG while making Executive edicts he is not authorized to make. But we elected this idealogue twice America and som,ehow will keep doing it!!!

Flag Reply +33 rate up
5 replies
napa422 June 05 2014 at 3:27 PM


Flag Reply +31 rate up
5 replies
tpantdds June 05 2014 at 3:31 PM

the govt. can't properly handle the VA. now they give the rest of us obamocare! except congress, they voted to exclude themselves. remember obama saying we all deserved the same care congress gave itself? GOD help us

Flag Reply +31 rate up
3 replies
napa422 June 05 2014 at 3:31 PM


Flag Reply +26 rate up
2 replies
Mel napa422 June 05 2014 at 4:33 PM

Uninformed Americans like yourself... AND the Teapublican Party who has a vested interest in keeping them that way.

You're welcome. :)

Flag Reply +15 rate up
13 replies
Rickrak napa422 June 05 2014 at 4:49 PM

Mel , your head so far up the ass of the left, he cant even see the obvoius! Do you ever read watch the news? Economy sucks, VA lets them die, No longer a superpower in the eyes of the world, food and fuel prices continue to climb. Only low pay jobs, national debt continues to climb and Obama says. "I just heard about it from the news" What happen to "the buck stops here"? 6 years later, its no longer Bush's fault.

Flag Reply +23 rate up
10 replies
jebby1 June 05 2014 at 4:31 PM

You would think that the VA would be the model for the best health care in the world. But instead it's a glaring example of government inefficiency and control at its worse. You would think that politicians would have everything to gain by demonstrating that the US government could run one agency efficiently and deliver quality services. But instead it's an example of empty political promises by those who seek political office as an opportunity to fill their own coffers.

Flag Reply +23 rate up
4 replies
jeffreyluckyana June 05 2014 at 4:07 PM

George Soros - $23 billion net worth. Koch Bros. - $100 billion net worth. And our veterans at the VA are dying from lack of funds to pay for proper care. The rich are always ******* the poor. Always have, always will.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
6 replies
gamay9 June 05 2014 at 3:28 PM

Bloggers are so arrogant - they don't applaud the outstanding VA medical centers and don't know that a 'clinic' is only for outpatient. Bloggers only read their own posts but don't read others and don't respond with praise.

I blogged about Milwaukee, the first and best. The media doesn't say a word about Milwaukee and the others which have complied. Chicago is just a clinic. Vets from the Windy City generally go to Milwaukee for acute care.

Why don't veterans and the press recognize the outstanding facilities, like Milwaukee? Check out my more lengthy post. Not only is Milwaukee a great VA, it is also a great city - and, I don't live there. New York City doesn't have a large VA facility - they couldn't handle it.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
15 replies
leslie June 05 2014 at 2:52 PM

Obama wanted another Dr Kevorkian to run it!

Flag Reply +9 rate up
6 replies
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