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Jon Tester Defends VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on MSNBC

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This morning, May 14, Montana Senator John Tester attempted to defend Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki while on Joe Scarborough’s MSNBC program “Morning Joe.” Tester said he didn’t think Shinseki should be removed from office in the wake of a waiting-list scandal and cover-up that may have led to the deaths of veterans in Phoenix.

“I think you may be one of the only people, not only in Washington D.C. that think the VA is doing a good job, but maybe one of the only people in America who believe that,” said Scarborough.

“I couldn’t disagree with you more, I’ve been around the state of Montana, I’ve talked to veterans for the last seven years, and I’m not a veteran, but I’ve talked to veterans and I can tell you that, almost without exception they appreciate the VA and they like the healthcare that it offers,” said Tester

Scarborough kept pressing, but Tester continued to defend the VA.

“You’ve got parts of the VA that are actually cooking the books and possibly killing veterans,” Scarborough said.

“We need to get to the bottom of that, but I will tell you, the waiting list, we knew it was coming, it was coming, and I can tell you this secretary has reduced it by 45 percent,” replied Tester.

The conversation also covered accessibity in a large state like Montana, Tester said that more mental health professionals in both the VA and the private sector are key as well as expanding tele-health programs which are already being tested.

In the end, Scarborough said that he respected Tester, but that the defense of Shinseki was an example of “one of the most remarkable political disconnects.” Scarborough also inferred that Tester’s defense may be a tactical decision to help get a new VA facility in Montana.

Montana’s congressional delegation has split on VA issues recently. Interim Senator John Walsh and Senator Tester have supported Shinseki, while Congressman Steve Daines has called for his resignation


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