The chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee on Tuesday criticized President Obama for failing to "get involved" and help resolve the sudden shortfall of money at the Department of Veterans Affairs that could force veterans hospitals to close down in August.
The shortfall of $3 billion was only revealed by the VA in the last few weeks.
"VA's central office is physically located steps from the White House front door," Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., wrote in a terse letter to Obama. "I strongly suggest you pay a visit and get to the bottom of what is happening."
"If this is truly a crisis threatening VA hospital operations then the president should be sounding the alarm," he added. "Just as your words matter, so does your silence."
Miller's letter was written just a day after VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson told him that Congress needs to pass legislation to give the VA the authority to shift money around between accounts. Gibson said the VA was forced to reallocate "critical operations funding" to the VA's "Care in the Community" program, but now that operations funding needs to be replenished.
"If these program funds are not restored, VA will face shutting down hospital operations during August 2015," he wrote.
Gibson also said that unless a new law provides for more budget flexibility, the VA would have to defer all other requests from veterans to use the "Care in the Community" until the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.
Gibson proposed taking $3 billion from the Veterans' Choice Act, a program created last year to help veterans get care outside the broken, mismanaged VA system.
Miller called the financial warning just the latest in a "series of belated warnings" from the VA, and said it's not clear the VA would have warned Congress at all unless his committee held a June 25 hearing on the VA's latest management problem.
The VA has been plagued with severe management problems for years. More than a year ago, it was discovered that senior VA officials were purposefully hiding the fact that some veterans waited several years to get a healthcare appointment at the VA.
That led to a new law aimed at helping veterans get care outside the VA, and the creation of the Choice Program. But the VA has resisted that change, as evidenced by Gibson's suggestion to take money from that program to fund its budget shortfall.
In the last few weeks, both Republicans and Democrats have opposed any attempt to whittle down the Choice Program.
Last year's law also gave the VA the authority to fire corrupt or negligent officials. But so far, no official has been officially fired for their role in the healthcare scandal, and just a handful have been fired at all. Some have been allowed to retire with full benefits.
On Monday, it was reported that about one-third of of the veterans on the VA's healthcare backlog list have already died. Miller said that's unacceptable.
"Today's troubling news highlights VA's ongoing mismanagement and calls into question VA's ability to adequately care for our nation's veterans and I look forward to the OIG's report so we can address this problem head-on," he said. "No veteran should ever fall through the cracks when attempting to receive the care they have earned."
Read Miller's letter to Obama here: