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Public Statements

CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript

Statement

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KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go ahead and check our top stories.

No apologies. That's the message from Israel to Turkey. Turkish officials demanding an apology after last month's Israeli raid on an aid ship headed to Gaza that killed nine Turkish citizens. Israel currently has a blockade for aid in that region. Israeli officials told CNN that Israel will never apologize for defending its citizens. Turkey has threatened to cut off relations.

Two run away horses pulling a wagon bolted out of a July 4th parade in Iowa. Those horses ran wild for six blocks, trampling people along that parade route; 24 people were hurt, five are in critical condition including two children.

Ecuadorian authorities working with the U.S., actually DEA agents that have seized what they say is a fully functional submarine built just for smuggling cocaine. They've also arrested one man. That sub is being held near the border of Ecuador and Colombia; investigators trying to find the group responsible for assembling it.

A developing story now about our veterans: our warriors and the quality of medical care that they've earned and deserve versus what they're actually getting. All last week we told you about the hundreds of veterans in St. Louis possibly exposed to HIV and hepatitis because of dirty dental equipment. That's just the most recent case.

Don't forget last year hundreds of vets may have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis thanks to dirty colonoscopy equipment at VA clinics in Tennessee and Florida. Also there were faulty prostate cancer screenings in Philly. Other vets got letters telling them that they had the fatal Lou Gehrig's disease. Those letters were actually wrong.

Lots of serious VA missteps.

And now we've got our hands on an internal memo from the VA. It's meant to crack down on some questionable medical practices at some facilities. In that memo, it talks about patient care compromise. Vets kept waiting for appointments, highlighting inappropriate scheduling practices referred to as gaming strategies, a tactic that was, according to this document, used to improve customer service scores.

And there's more, 8 pages worth, in fact. Congressman Bob Filner of California is chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and is their warrior in Washington. He's with me now to talk about this latest fight. It's frustrating, congressman, to see these stories over and over and over again. I know you're not going to let up on the VA and neither are we.

REP. BOB FILNER (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: We appreciate all your work here. You know, it's outrageous, one, that this happens, but even worse is this secretive, almost cover-up mode that they go into when something like this happens. Rather than be straight forward, talk about what happened, make the corrections, treat our veterans, who we owe so much to, with some respect and some care and empathy, they cover it up.

They knew about this problem with the cleaning of dental equipment in March. It took them almost two months to convene some board to look at the problem and then another six weeks before they notified anybody. Then they notify with a letter, you open a letter that says you may have HIV without necessarily a call or explanation.

We should be much more caring not only about the procedures but the way we deal with them after they're known.

PHILLIPS: And let me ask you, what is the incentive here? I wanted to dig a little deeper on this memo that we got our hands on. When they - it was referred to as gaming strategies, a tactic used to improve customer service scores. Are there bonuses involved in certain things that the VA does, members of the VA hat are working in these clinics? I mean, is there a financial incentive to basically hose vets?

FILNER: I think it's a bureaucratic incentive although there are bonuses, and we measure things, for example, waiting times. If you have a good waiting time you come up high in scores. That may get you a promotion. But if the waiting times are gamed, that is they don't count the times that you were sitting there before you got to the actual doctor, then we don't know the truth. I'm sorry, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: It's OK. By the way, do you have water? I know you're fighting a cold and you're a trooper for getting up early and coming and meeting with us. Grab a drink of water there and we'll just let our viewers - kind of update our viewers here on these stories that we've been covering with regard to our vets, in particular this memo that we got our hands on. You were talking about there are ways to get promotions and better your career through these certain scores but continue what you were saying.

FILNER: Well, mainly we have to have a bureaucracy that says we care about you, not we care more about the bureaucracy. When you don't - when you cover things up, and Congress was not informed about this St. Louis thing until they actually sent out the letters, which was about five months too late, and when a bureaucracy acts that way, you feel there's a cover-up and, yet, these are our veterans. These are the people who gave us our freedom. We have to be more loving and caring about them. PHILLIPS: Absolutely. And I know there is this public hearing that's coming up on July 13th, the VA medical safety lapse that we're talking about here from St. Louis. What can we expect to come out of that meeting?

FILNER: Well, we want to know exactly what happened and who knew what where as they said in Watergate, what did you know and when did you know it? I don't think the secretary of the VA knew what was going on until it became public last week. That's disgraceful.

We want to get to the bottom of what happened but more important what do you do when a mistake occurs? And how do you do it in the most empathetic way possible? Why don't we have someone in charge of every 50 of these 1,800 who got letters and say, follow up with phone calls. Make sure they know we care. And how to get the tests to show them and give them some sense of knowledge and security about what they have.

PHILLIPS: And not to mention the 2009, the federal report that came out that cited numerous violations made at VA hospitals according to this report that we were looking over again this morning by the federal eye. The Veteran Affairs inspector general report actually followed up on these revelations that the VA hospitals in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee, by the way we've covered stories out of all three of those states, possibly exposed 10,320 veterans to hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV by not properly cleaning equipment.

What can you do as chairman of the House committee on Veterans Affairs, what can you do, specifically, to try and put a stop to this? There's got to be more accountability.

FILNER: Yes, and the VA, you know, is responding with new procedures and new follow-ups but Kyra, the only way you can get accountability is if there is someone who actually pays a price for this. Nobody has been fired, for example, in any of these incidents. There have been people who are put on leave and such but nobody gets the ultimate price to show that we're trying to be accountable. By spotlighting with our hearing, by spotlighting what is going on, we hope to bring more accountability to the VA.

PHILLIPS: Well, I hope so because I hope it doesn't take vets dying from these mistakes, congressman, until changes are finally made and people lose their jobs. Congressman Bob Filner -

FILNER: Kyra, I should say the probability of infection is very low because these instruments were sterilized. They just weren't given a pre-cleaning. So it's very low. But we have to be more accountable for everything. These are the people that we have to care about every single day.

PHILLIPS: Congressman, thanks. And I know you do.

All right. So Ron Paul supports Michael Steele's comments about the Afghan war. Well, there's one, because many Republicans are ripping him apart and wishing the party head would think before he jams his foot in the party's mouth. In case you missed it here's what Mr. Steele said. It was actually late Friday at a fundraiser in Connecticut.

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