US Senate

May 23rd, 2014

Iowa GOP Senate Candidates Sound Off on VA Scandal

The latest scandal encapsulating the Obama administration is also playing out in U.S. Senate and House races across the country. There are serious allegations of major incompetence and malfeasance in the Veterans Affairs system. Veterans were put on secret waiting lists, data was manipulated to keep the extended wait times secret and dozens of veterans died while awaiting care, according to the allegations.

President Obama has been slow to act to the controversy and finally offered a very weak response on Wednesday. However, vulnerable Democrats across the country are now demanding that Obama fire Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley is not one of them.

The liberal from Waterloo has long claimed to be a veterans’ advocate, although he voted to cut their pensions last year. Braley will be the Democrats’ nominee for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Tom Harkin.

Braley says there needs to be an investigation before Shinseki is fired. At least two Republican U.S. Senate candidates disagree.

“You have to lead. I think the president should deal with the issues in the VA and the issues at the VA start at the top,” Matt Whitaker told “There are good people that work at the VA. Don’t get me wrong, they do a very important role, but it’s abhorrent what’s going on. And if they didn’t know it was going on, as widespread as it’s been, only new leadership can fix that challenge.”

Joni Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard and the GOP frontrunner, says Shinseki must go.

“He needs to leave and we need to put in place somebody that will take these issues seriously and get to the root of the problem and make sure our veterans are being treated,” Ernst said. “I’m very upset about this situation. Our servicemen and women deserve better. We absolutely have to take care of them, as they have taken care of us.”

Sam Clovis, an Air Force veteran, wants Shinseki to undergo intense grilling before receiving the boot.

“He needs to be grilled by Congress, the House and Senate both, and we need to get to the bottom of this. Then a determination should be made of whether or not he is responsible. And if so, yes, he ought to go, but I think he ought to have to sit there until this thing is done because I think it’s better to stew in your own juices a little bit than have somebody give you a free pass out,” Clovis said.

The five candidates in Iowa’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate spent the afternoon discussing healthcare during a debate sponsored by the Iowa Association of Health Underwriters. Bruce Braley was also invited to participate in the forum. He declined.

Along with rooting out the alleged corruption and incompetence in the VA, the Republican candidates suggested other ways of providing better care to our veterans, including voucher systems and private, out-of-market options.

“We have a moral obligation to provide appropriate care for the men and women that wore the uniform of the United States of America,” said Mark Jacobs. “What is happening here is unconscionable and it must be fixed. Why is it that the poorest healthcare provided is provided to our veterans?”

“The biggest thing is we have to keep our promises that we made and if we promises in their enlisting through their retirement that they’re going to receive services, we have to be able to ensure that we’re providing those services to them,” said Scott Schaben, a Navy veteran.

This was the 35th forum or debate for the U.S. Senate candidates, according to Sam Clovis. He has participated in all of them. The event was lightly attended, with a crowd of around 40 sprinkled about in a room set up for a crowd five times larger.

The 90-minute healthcare debate allowed the candidates to offer a lot of depth on a single issue. The candidates avoided criticizing their counterparts and there were only minor contrasts amongst the field on most of the issues.

The primary election is just a week and a half away. The lone remaining debate for the GOP field takes place next Thursday at the KCCI-TV studio in Des Moines and will be broadcast live.

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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