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Face the Nation Transcripts May 25, 2014: Blumenthal, Thune, Kinzinger

The latest on the mass murder in California and the ongoing Veterans Affairs hospital scandal
May 25: Blumenthal, Thune, Kinzinger 46:02

(CBS News) Below is a transcript of the May 25, 2014 edition of "Face the Nation." Guests included Sheriff Bill Brown, Richard Blumenthal, John Thune, Adam Kinzinger, Dana Priest, David Finkel, Col. Tom Manion, Allen Pizzey, Danielle Nottingham, Jarrett Bell, Sean Gregory, and Steven Silverman.

ANNOUNCER: And now from CBS News in Washington, FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer; substituting for Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett.

MAJOR GARRETT: Today on FACE THE NATION, a horrific start to Memorial Day weekend as six are killed in a mass murder in Santa Barbara.

Plus, honoring our nation's veterans on this Memorial Day weekend.

What drove twenty-two-year-old Elliot Rodger to kill six before turning the gun on himself in Santa Barbara Friday night? We will get the latest from the chief investigator on the scene, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

And President Obama promises accountability in the VA scandal even as he keeps Secretary Eric Shinseki on the job and orders a new round of investigations. Were crimes committed? Should Shinseki go? We will ask Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran-turned-Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

Plus, a panel including the Washington Post reporter Dana Priest who broke the 2007 story about mistreatment of veterans at Walter Reed. Then, we'll look at latest lawsuit to hit the NFL with the attorney for the players and a panel of sportswriters. Sixty years of news because this is FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, again. Bob is off today. I'm Major Garrett.

Police have identified twenty-two-year-old Elliot Rodger as the gunman who killed six Friday night near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, before taking his life. The details of this case are chilling. Police say the killer was, quote, "severely mentally disturbed" and the mayhem in his apartment where three were stabbed to death and on the streets of Santa Barbara was the work, quote, "of a madman." Rodger even posted a video to YouTube promising retribution against women who had shunned him. He wrote a one-hundred-forty-one-page manifesto outlining his plans for the rampage. Last night the police released the names of three shooting victims, twenty-two-year-old Katherine Cooper, nineteen-year-old Veronica Weiss and twenty-year-old Christopher Michael-Martinez, all students at UCSB. We begin our coverage with CBS News correspondent Danielle Nottingham who was in Santa Barbara this morning.

DANIELLE NOTTINGHAM (CBS News Correspondent): Good morning, Major. This is a small college community. They are in shock and they are grieving. Hundreds showed up to a candlelight vigil last night to pay their respects. The Santa Barbara County sheriff says the calls came in at nine thirty Friday night. And for the next ten minutes Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree leaving a crime scene in ten different locations. First, he stabbed three people to death in his apartment and he posted a video on YouTube with the chilling message that he wanted to kill people at a sorority in retribution for not getting dates and never being kissed.

ELLIOT RODGER: You force me to suffer all my life and now I'll make you all suffer.

DANIELLE NOTTINGHAM: And he fired shots outside of a sorority house killing two people there. Then he drove around town shooting at random. By the end of this shooting spree, six people were dead, thirteen others wounded. And police say as they closed in on Rodger, they believe he took his own life. Now Rodger had three semi-automatic handguns. They were all in his own name and they were purchased legally. Police also found four hundred rounds of ammunition. And, Major, police are looking through social media and e-mails. They're also examining a one-hundred-forty-one-page manifesto to see if there were any warning signs.

MAJOR GARRETT: Danielle Nottingham, thank you very much.

And joining us now Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. Sheriff Brown, I just want to tell you we understand this is a traumatic time for your community, your department, and yourself. We want to wish you the best of luck in this investigation. What can you tell us about what your department learned April thirtieth when it made this visit to Elliot Rodger prompted by the warnings or at least concern expressed by one of his relatives?

SHERIFF BILL BROWN (Santa Barbara County): Well, Major, on that day, we were asked by the Mental Health Department to conduct a welfare check with Elliot Rodger to determine if he was a danger to himself or anyone else. This was prompted by a call by a third party. The Mental Health Department contacted one of his relatives who had expressed some concern about his wellbeing. Our deputies went to check on Mister Elliot, contacted him outside his residence, they found him to be, at that time, rather quiet and timid. He was polite and courteous. He was able to convince the deputies that this was all a misunderstanding that although he was having some social problems, he was probably not going to be staying in school and going to be returning home. And he was able to make a very convincing story that there was no problem that he wasn't going to hurt himself or anyone else. And there-- he just didn't meet the criteria for any further intervention at that point. And, obviously, looking back on this it's a very tragic situation and we, certainly, you know, wish that we could turn the clock back and maybe change some things. But at the time, the deputies interacted with him, he was able to convince them that he was okay and when you read his autobio-- autobiography and manifesto that he wrote it's very apparent that he was able to convince many people for many years that he didn't have this deep, underlying obvious mental illness that ultimately manifested itself in this terrible tragedy.

MAJOR GARRETT: Sheriff Brown, two follow-up questions, are you satisfied your deputies follow procedures as they are instructed and was there anything that would have normally overlaid their visit with any check of recent or even not so recent weapons purchases?

SHERIFF BILL BROWN: We are still, you know, looking into all of the details. Everything that we've had at this point has been pretty hastily put together. So we're going to take a look at the detail as the investigation continues. As far as the weapons checks go, normally under a case like this, you know, weapons-- I think they actually probably spoke to him about the weapons I'm not sure that an actual weapons check was conducted, I don't have that information right now. There's been a lot of discussion about whether or not he was-- or how he was able to obtain weapons. He purchased three of these handguns over the preceding year before the incident. And during the course of his interaction with medical health professionals, he apparently had never been either institutionalized or committed for an involuntary hold of any kind and those are the two triggers that actually make-- would have made him a prohibited person in terms of a firearms purchase. So he was able, sadly, to obtain those three firearms.

MAJOR GARRETT: Sheriff Brown, what can you tell us about the victims who were wounded, I believe the number is thirteen, what is their status?

SHERIFF BILL BROWN: I don't have the exact numbers, but a number of them have been treated and released from hospitals already. There are two I believe that are still in serious condition. And the remainder are either in good or fair condition and at this point it doesn't appears there are any more that have life-threatening medical situation. So we're very pleased about that obviously.

MAJOR GARRETT: Sheriff, three people were murdered in his apartment by knife wound. What can you tell us about how that happened; were there anybody nearby who heard anything? What-- what about that particular part of this crime stands out to you?

SHERIFF BILL BROWN: We didn't receive any reports of anything. Those victims were discovered during the course of a search of the suspect's apartment that was secondary to the actual incident as part of our investigation. It was done fairly quickly after the shooting rampage that occurred on Friday night when we discovered those bodies. But no-- no one heard anything or contacted us as though anything was amiss. And-- and-- when our deputies went into the residence they found three male victims who were deceased, and who-- all of whom appeared to have suffered multiple stab wounds.

MAJOR GARRETT: One last question for you Sheriff. Did you or have you come across anything that would indicate even in a tangential way, anyone who was close to Elliot Rodger had any inkling this might happen?

SHERIFF BILL BROWN: We haven't discovered that at this point at all. And in reading his manifesto, I think that he was able to fly under the radar, so to speak, in terms of his likelihood or propensity to-- to hurt anyone else. And so we haven't-- we haven't seen any incidents of that.

MAJOR GARRETT: Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, thank you very much for your time this morning. Richard Martinez, the father of one of the students killed, had this to say to reporters yesterday.

RICHARD MARTINEZ (Father of Victim): You don't think it will happen to your child until it does. Chris was a really great kid. Ask anyone who knew him. His death has left our family lost and broken. Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians, and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris's right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, "Stop this madness. We don't have to live like this." Too many have died. We should say to ourselves, not one more. Thank you. That's it.

MAJOR GARRETT: We want to go now to Republican Senator John Thune, who is in Minneapolis, and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who joins us from Stanford, Connecticut. Senator Blumenthal, I'm sure those words and those sentiments and emotions ring in your ears as a dark and grim reminder of the situation in Connecticut, the elementary school, everything about that. What is your reaction, Sir?

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (Veterans' Affairs Committee/D-Connecticut): First of all, my heart and prayers go out to Richard Martinez and the loved ones of all of those victims in Santa Barbara. That gut-wrenching, heart-breaking statement is a reminder of how we felt in the wake of Sandy Hook on December fourteenth a year and a half ago when it seemed like we were on the verge of potentially legislation that would stop the madness and end the insanity that has killed too many young people, thousands, tens of thousands since Sandy Hook, including Erika Robinson and Javier Martinez on the streets of New Haven whose lives we commemorated recently. And I hope I really sincerely hope that this tragedy, this unimaginable, unspeakable tragedy will provide an impetus to bring back measures that would keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who are severely troubled or deranged like this young man was and provide resource. We need mental health resources and that initiative I hope will provide a common ground, a point of consensus that will bring us together in the Congress and enable the majority. Ninety percent of the American people want background checks to be heard, to be responded to, and to end the madness and insanity.

MAJOR GARRETT: Before we go to Senator Thune, let me follow up with Senator Blumenthal. The sheriff told us that there were no flags that would have prompted a check on the legally purchased weapons that Elliot Rodger had and he didn't seem to have large or larger than normal size magazines for his weapons. Do you believe the legislation the Senate did not pass would have made any difference in this case?

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: The legislation that failed to pass--it got support from fifty-five senators--would have provided a mental health initiative with more resources, greater ability for the Santa Barbara police to intervene--to use the sheriff's word--to have professionals trained in diagnosing and detecting this kind of derangement. Obviously, not every kind of gun violence is going to be prevented by laws out of Washington but at least we can make a start and I am going to urge that we bring back those bills, maybe reconfigure them to center on mental health which is a point where we can agree that we need more resources to make the country healthier and to make sure that these kinds of horrific, insane, mad occurrences are stopped and the Congress will be complicit if we fail to act.

MAJOR GARRETT: Senator Thune, your thoughts?

SENATOR JOHN THUNE (R-South Dakota): Well, Major, let me also say that our thoughts and prayers go out to Richard Martinez and his family and to all those that were impacted. This was a horrific act of violence that involves not only shootings but stabbings. And when we get the specifics of the case we do need to focus on, and I agree with Richard and ensure that we have policies in place that allow people with mental health issues like these to be diagnosed and to be treated. I think that something on which there is agreement and that's where we ought to be focusing our efforts.

MAJOR GARRETT: All right. Let's go to the question of the Veterans Administration, its conduct of the health care system itself, broadly and allegations of either fraud or mismanagement or, possibly, criminal conduct. Senator Blumenthal, I want to start with you. You're former U.S. attorney, former attorney general of the State of Connecticut. You have said that the Justice Department must get involved. Why hasn't it and are you, Sir, outraged that the administration is yet to put Department of Justice investigators on this case?

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: I believe that the Department of Justice has to be involved. I have urged Secretary Shinseki privately and, in fact, publicly to request and involve the Department of Justice. We're talking now about evidence, credible and specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing across the country in more than thirty places. The inspector general of the Veterans Administration has only a hundred and sixty-five investigators. Plainly more resources are needed, only the Department of Justice and the FBI have the resources, the expertise, and the authority to do a prompt and effective criminal investigation of the secret waiting lists, potential destruction of documents, falsification of records. In effect the cooking of books and covering up that may have occurred. These are allegations but there's evidence to support them. We're not rushing to judgment, but the Department of Justice can convene a grand jury if necessary, the IG cannot. And reflects and presents an outside independent authority that can offer accountability and the perception of accountability of restored trust and confidence on the part of veterans and that has to be our focus. Accountability is a means to the end of assuring better health care, better delivery of health care, the end to delays and rigid bureaucracy and calcification of rules that have impeded access and blocked many veterans from receiving timely care.

MAJOR GARRETT: Senator Thune your thoughts about the President's press conference earlier this week. And also I'd like to get your thoughts on a dust-up started by one of your Republican colleagues Richard Burr who criticized some of the veterans' service organizations for not being forceful enough in calling for Eric Shinseki, the VA secretary, to resign. Those organizations have accused him of low-ball politics, outrageous conduct over this Memorial Day weekend. I'd like your thoughts on both subjects, Sir.

SENATOR JOHN THUNE: Well, first off, I think the President just waited way too long to get into this, Major. That was the issue that many of us were raising as that you had reports of up to forty people who died on waiting lists. You had these reports of secret lists and falsifying records and all those sorts of things. And it took three weeks for the President to act. I'm glad that he is engaging, the things that were said yesterday about giving veterans access to non-VA facilities to-- if they can't get into VA facilities, I think, is a welcome change. And-- and I think what Senator Burr's letter in the VFW's response to it suggests is there's a high level of frustration with what's going on, which I think gets at the broader issue of what do we do to reform the institutions. We have got a failure-- a basic failure of the institutions. It isn't been associated with funding because we know that funding has been increased by sixty percent over the past five years to the VA. We need a top-to-bottom review by inspector general, system-wide that points out and gives us an idea about how to proceed. And I think one of the things is we've got to have more accountability, more transparency about not only waiting lists but outcomes at the VA. We also have to come up with a better model of delivering care to our veterans so they don't have these--these waits. I mean this is a-- this is a real tragedy. These are the people with whom we have a sacred trust and that's been betrayed. And we need to make sure that it's fixed.

MAJOR GARRETT: Senator Thune, the VFW--Veterans of Foreign Wars it's called--Senator Burr's comments a monumental cheap shot. There are those who have expressed some nervousness about all this becoming hyper politicized in a midterm election year, is that what's going on?

SENATOR JOHN THUNE: Well, I don't know. And I-- look, there's-- there are going to be basic disagreements. Different veterans' service organizations came to different conclusions about whether or not Secretary Shinseki ought to step aside. But, basically, what this-- this ought to transcend politics, Major. This really is an issue that needs to be solved. And we're talking about the men and women who put their lives on the line, who risked everything for us, and we need to have a system of health care that gives them the highest possible quality care in a timely way and do it in the most cost effective way. And that ought to be what we're focused on. And I think right now you're just seeing a high level of frustration. And the only way that we're going to get to the bottom of this is to have that, I think, full-blown investigation and then look at better ways of delivering health care services to America's veterans.

MAJOR GARRETT: Real quickly about fifteen seconds, Senator Blumenthal, have you called the Attorney General Eric Holder about this and what's his response been about putting the DOJ on the case?

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: I've spoken to the director of the FBI about it and, obviously, they are considering what the options are and learning more about it. But here's the really important point, looming right away are more than a million Americans who are going to be leaving the military and becoming veterans placing unforeseen demands on this the system.


SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: It's a system under stress. There need to be reforms and accountability and we owe our veterans--

MAJOR GARRETT: Exactly. Right.

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: --better-- I'm impatient and fed up and so are the veterans.

MAJOR GARRETT: Very good. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator John Thune, thank you very much.


MAJOR GARRETT: And we'll be back in one minute.


MAJOR GARRETT: Another member of Congress who's been outspoken in the VA scandal is Representative Adam Kinzinger who was a major in the Air Force Reserve and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressman, thank you for joining us.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER (Foreign Affairs Committee/R-Illinois): It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

MAJOR GARRETT: Your sense of where this VA scandal is and where it's going and what is your reaction to the announcement just made over the weekend that veterans who can't get care can seek it from non-VA facilities.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Well, you know, look, everything I hear from this administration, from politicians talking about it, I'm, you know, acutely aware of the fact that I'm also a politician is talking about in-depth studies and see what results are and we need to figure out what's going on here and look at this and look at that. Meanwhile, while we're waiting for the results of studies you have veterans that are waiting for care from the Veterans Administration. You know, look General Shinse-- Shinseki has been there for six years. He has not been able to get his grip on this. The President's press conference sounded exactly like what he talked about in 2007. It is really time for a shake-up and-- and for some real issues. Now in terms of what was done this weekend and what was announced in terms of veterans being able to go to private doctors and hospitals, I think it's great. We've been calling on this for a very long time. I introduced a bill similar to this about a year ago so I'm going to celebrate this move by the VA. But I'm also going to say, what took so long. This is not a new issue in terms of the backlog, and it's not a new issue in terms of the fact that there were, now secret waiting lists created which is a whole another level of incompetency to the level of criminality.

MAJOR GARRETT: When you say level of criminality is that something you are certain of or suspicious about?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Well, I'm not a lawyer and I'm kind of proud of that. But, you know, at the same time, if you have somebody that created a fake waiting list in order to make their numbers look better, more interested in protecting their bonuses and their job than in protecting those that have protected us, frankly, I think that is criminal negligence. And so for me, I think it's gone from incompetence. We're talking about a year or a two-year backlog that was incompetence, that was bureaucracy, that was something that we had to take a real strong approach on. But when it came to people have created fake waiting lists and veterans have died, I think that goes to the level of criminality. And that's where, you know, as the prior senator was saying the Department of Justice needs to get involved in this. The President has got to show some intense outrage. And while I think General Shinseki needs to go, he's a great American, but I don't think he's fit for this. I haven't even seen the level of outrage out of him that I think we ought to be hearing to know that there were fake waiting lists created to pad numbers.

MAJOR GARRETT: Congressman, before I let you go, the President often says it doesn't do any good to fire somebody in a moment of crisis, it's just-- it's typical Washington scapegoating. What's your reaction to that and why do you think getting rid of Shinseki now would make the situation materially better than it is?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Well, to an extent I agree with the President. In fact, a year ago, I had conversations with colleagues about calling for his resignation and I don't want to jump on the resignation bandwagon where it changed is when I heard that there were, in fact, secret waiting lists. Look, the-- the reality is, it's been six years, he hasn't been able to tackle this. We've got to have answers now. He's a great guy but I think maybe bring somebody like a hospital administrator in. Just because the General has been in the military it doesn't mean he knows how to run the largest hospital organization in the country. So I think it's time for a major shake-up at the VA like it happened after 2007 and after those reports that you're going to talk about later. I think it's time for a major change and it starts at the top.

MAJOR GARRETT: Congressman Adam Kinzinger from Chicago, thank you very much. We appreciate your time this Sunday.

We'll have a lot more on the issues facing our nation's veterans in our second half hour. And we'll be back in a moment.


MAJOR GARRETT: Don't go away. We have a lot more FACE THE NATION coming up, including a discussion on the latest lawsuit to hit the NFL; and a report on the Pope's visit to the Holy Land. Stay with us.


MAJOR GARRETT: Some of our stations are leaving us now. But most of you, we'll be right back with a lot more of FACE THE NATION, including a discussion on the state of Veterans Affairs; plus, highlights from this year's commencement addresses. Don't worry, I didn't give one. Please don't go away.


MAJOR GARRETT: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm Major Garrett, filling in for Bob Schieffer. We're joined now by Washington Post investigative reporter Dana Priest who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work at the Post in 2007 uncovering the Walter Reed scandal. We also welcome David Finkel, her colleague at the Post, who has a new book out called, Thank You for Your Service. And we're also honored to be joined this morning by Colonel Tom Manion, author of a new book, Brothers Forever, about his son and his son's best friend, who were killed in service and are now buried next to one another at Arlington National Cemetery. Colonel, thank you for joining us this morning. I'd like to get your opening thoughts on the Veterans Administration scandal as we're calling it in Washington and what you think needs to be done.

COLONEL TOM MANION, USMC (Retired) (Brothers Forever): Well, Major, you know, for me, on this Memorial Day weekend, when we think about those guys that are coming home and for them not to have the type of medical service and attention they need is-- is really unacceptable. But it's also something that it's no surprise this has been going on for years. And really there's-- there's too much bureaucracy, there's too much red tape, and we really just got to get past that and deliver the services that are needed for these guys. They've done so much for our country and we owe them just that.

MAJOR GARRETT: Does it pain you to read these stories and discover either allegations or in some cases confirmed reports of veterans dying simply waiting to be seen?

COLONEL TOM MANION: Well, it's just not right. And-- and, you know, our country should be able to figure that out. And we just really need to get to work. We need to-- peo-- people to come together and look for solutions. There's too much of the finger pointing. This is-- this is something that-- that's been around for a long time. Those involved in the military know that the Veterans Affairs has been having issues for a long, long time. So let's get together and let's make it work.

MAJOR GARRETT: Dana, you did your work in 2007. Immediately thereafter there were resignations and/or firings. There is a bipartisan commission. How would you contrast the sort of accountability index now against what you saw and what you reported in 2007?

DANA PRIEST (Washington Post): Well, there are some things that are similar which is that this story originated by some courageous insiders from the-- from the VA, a doctor and some staff members who were willing to come to the media and tell them what was going on allegedly. The government has responded by saying we're outraged, which happened before. Those who don't say they're outraged got fired in Walter Reed. One of the disturbing facts that's different this time around is the-- is the immediate by-- the immediate politics of it. Last time they seem to be more willing, the politicians on Capitol Hill, to work together. There is a bipartisan commission appointed by President Bush. They work together. They came up with a lot of solutions. There was much more money that has-- that was poured into both the-- the situation for active duty soldiers but also the VA and like the Colonel was saying the Veterans Administration has had problems forever. It's a very large system.

MAJOR GARRETT: For those who may not remember briefly walk us through what you discovered at Walter Reed, why it caught so many people by surprise and how you think it differs materially from reports of veterans dying for care now, waiting for care now.

DANA PRIEST: Well, this was a report about the situation-- the situation of neglect really at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for active duty returning troops that was three miles from the White House. A White House that had continually said we are going to do the best we can for our troops. And an American public who said basically no matter what we feel about the wars, we don't want to take it out on the troops, we're going to support them. And lo and behold, that's not what was happening at Walter Reed which is-- which was a place that was underfunded and run by people who had compassion fatigue, is-- is the name for it really, I mean, and this bureaucracy issue. People were getting--especially outpatients, it wasn't the medical staff--but as outpatients, people were getting lost in the system. They would go back to their rooms where they were supposed to be convalescing, and nobody would check on them, and they would forget their appointments because they had PTSD and traumatic brain injury and paperwork was going missing. So this time around it's-- it's not, you know, right now it's limited to one place. It's banded at twenty-six; the IG is going to look at that. It's the Veterans Administration where all those folks now are.


DANA PRIEST: So the bubbles moved from one to the other.

MAJOR GARRETT: And, David, this brings us to you and your book which is searing on so many different levels, emotionally gut-wrenching. I compliment you on that very difficult reporting work. It's about those who have come home and the difficulties they encounter. Some of which are aggravated by the veterans system, some of which are just things you bring home from-- from battle itself. Talk to us about your observations and your reaction as you evaluate this whole story.

DAVID FINKEL (Washington Post/Thank You For Your Service): Well, you know, it's beyond my length to say what ought to be done. I can tell you that I have been-- I spent the last seven years writing about an army infantry battalion that was sent into the surge. These were eight hundred young men who went off to war with a young man's sense of invincibility, if you will. And when they came home fifteen months later, you know, they had matured, they were changed. They-- in some cases degraded by the experience of fighting a war, what they did, what they didn't do, what they saw. The battalion of eight hundred includes fourteen guys, who died who will be remembered this weekend. And the others came home in various stages of being okay and not being okay. And what has happened to them since coming home in April '08 has-- has been basically the book is a chronicle of recovery. And that includes attempts, some good, some bad, to go into the VA system primarily for mental health help like I said they had a tough time. And-- and anecdotally some have gotten terrific care.


DAVID FINKEL: And some have gotten abysmal care. But what they-- any of them would say to you, is they went, they fought, these were not their wars, not their policies. They carried out policies, they did well. They came home. They were little messed up by the experience. They want to get better and they would all say they deserve kind of an even playing field in their attempt to get better.

MAJOR GARRETT: Mm-Hm. Colonel Manion, your foundation is about leadership and service to the degree you interact with those veterans of your sons and his best friend's age, what kind of stories do you hear, what is their level either of frustration or alienation from the VA system itself and trying to recover from some of the things that David talked about.

COLONEL TOM MANION: Well, I think what-- what we're seeing, Major, is that there is a lot of opportunity for non-profits to get in there and offer innovative solutions for these veterans and we are working with the veterans in different ways, you know, we're-- we're bringing social workers in, we're helping them transition into new opportunities, new jobs. We're trying to take a holistic viewpoint into what these young men and women need. And, you know, it's--

MAJOR GARRETT: Is that one of the things you think Americans may be wondering this Memorial Day weekend what they could do, what I can do, individually, is to look to non-profits or see what they might be able to offer, to fill in some of these gaps?

COLONEL TOM MANION: Well, certainly today, I mean, you see a number of non-profits that are out there doing innovative things, addressing the needs that aren't being addressed by the VA and our government. And I would say in the interim that would be what I would definitely suggest is that we-- we need to get behind some of those efforts that are going on and support that--at least now--and give them the backing that they need to-- to work with the veterans to get the job done.

MAJOR GARRETT: Dana, you mentioned whistleblowers who came to you and also set this story in motion not just in Phoenix, but in Columbia, South Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


MAJOR GARRETT: This is not just one place. It is system-wide. Sam Foote wrote a op-ed in the New York Times, identifying himself to America's one--


MAJOR GARRETT: --of the whistleblowers, and said, the Justice Department needed to get involved because the people who will be questioned by the Inspector General's Office when the-- then the Veterans Administration may not tell the truth either for fear of retribution or losing their own careers. That's why you need criminal investigators. Based on your experience, do you think that's correct and do you think that's the next step that has to be taken to get to the bottom of this.

DANA PRIEST: Criminal investigators, not necessarily. I'd-- what I do think is you have to understand that the system is very decentralized. There is over a-- there is over a hundred and fifty hospitals and-- and another eight hundred almost outpatient centers. And you can't expect-- or the most effective way is to-- to work with this is to-- is to have members of Congress who care about the hospital or the outpatient center in their district paying attention to it, and the local media paying attention to it. So the whistleblowers, who can step forward or who choose, to can be protected. And-- and the reporting and the pressure from the administration, from Congress, in particular, who gives the funding can be put where it needs to be. You need to look at the individuals here, the individual hospitals, individual nursing homes. The VA runs nursing homes. It's a very mix and match sort of record. The VA does fine in some places, and, usually, it's places wherever you have a lot of people from the outside looking at that hospital, including members of Congress, saying what's going on, what are your stats. So it is a decentralized system and sort of needs to be treated that way in order to make it work individually for individuals.

MAJOR GARRETT: David, a moment ago Dana mentioned that the bubble has moved. And the soldiers you put together in your book followed in your first book and now your subsequent book are in that bubble that's moved. And you have a story in the early parts of your book about someone driving to a appointment and it's on the wrong day and they're trying to squeeze themselves in just because they forgot the right day for their own appointment, some of that's part of this story. What-- and I would give you the last word on this. Do you think, based on your reporting, these veterans need most and are not being served best by through the VA?

DAVID FINKEL: Well, if we're talking about psychological trauma, recovering from-- from what war can do to you mentally, this is a tough population and you're exactly right. There is a-- there is-- there is a point in the book where a very good soldier, out now, in need of help, is going to his VA appointment, and, you know, he messes up. He-- it's the wrong day. And as he and his wife fight about this, the VA, they figure a way to get him in. They adjust to his problem that day. But later in the book you'll see the same soldier again trying to get help and what happens that day is he's-- you know, he's a good guy. And he's just waiting to find out how shameful he is as a human being because of the way he thinks of himself and he goes in; and as soon as a VA person doesn't listen closely enough to what he's saying, the small window that's open for this guy to get help down it comes, and-- and the guy is out of there and he doesn't want to get help again. So no one did anything wrong in that case. The VA acted well, a person didn't hear and said, tell me again what you said. Opportunity lost.

MAJOR GARRETT: Right. David Finkel, author of, Thank You for Your Service; Colonel Tom Manion, author of, Brothers Forever--

COLONEL TOM MANION: Brothers Forever.

MAJOR GARRETT: Thank you very much, Colonel. And Dana Priest, investigative reporter of the Washington Post, thank you very much for your time.

DANA PRIEST: Thank you.


MAJOR GARRETT: We'll be right back with a look at the latest lawsuit to hit the National Football League.


MAJOR GARRETT: We're changing gears now. Last week the sports world was rocked by a lawsuit filed by more than five hundred former NFL players, who claimed they face permanent injuries due to overuse of painkillers prescribed by NFL team doctors. The players say they were not told of potential side effects and long-term problems from the use of the prescription drugs and antiinflammatories. Joining us now is the attorney for the NFL players who have filed that lawsuit, Steve Silverman; Jarrett Bell is the NFL columnist for USA Today; and TIME senior writer, Sean Gregory. Gentlemen, it's great to have you with us.

JARRETT BELL (USA Today Sports): Good morning.

MAJOR GARRETT: Steve, let me start with you. I have heard since this lawsuit was filed some people say the players themselves were the pressuring agents. They wanted to get back on the field because (a) they wanted to play, and (b) they knew their contracts and financial futures depended on it. They were the driving forces on this. Your suit says exactly the opposite. What's your evidence?

STEVEN SILVERMAN (NFL Players' Attorney): Well, the evidence is literally hundreds of sworn affidavits from our clients dating back to the late 1960s. The-- the-- the focus here is that controlled dangerous substances, Major, have been-- have been regulated by state and federal law since 1970. And we as a society have said we are taking this out of the hands of regular people and putting this under the auspices of doctors. And doctors are controlling the procurement and distribution of controlled dangerous substances and prescription substances and it is not the choice of us individuals, whether you're an athlete or a fireman or a teacher to say, I want to take this, I want to take that. So we put the responsibility with the doctors and the medical people and those medical people that work for the NFL have breached that trust--


STEVEN SILVERMAN: --and are in complete control over what is dispensed, how it's dispensed, in what quantity it's dispensed. This is not a choice. We are in a society where the responsibility is with the doctor and we trust the doctor.

MAJOR GARRETT: And that trust was broken according to the lawsuit. What do you want to come out of it? Monetary damages, of course, but what remedial action do you want the NFL to take to more explicitly address this underlying issue?

STEVEN SILVERMAN: We-- we want the NFL to expand the rosters so that players who are hurt have the opportunity to mend their injuries.


STEVE SILVERMAN: We want the NFL to provide independent-- the funding for independent physicians for active players to be able to monitor what the team doctors are saying or doing because there's an inherent conflict of interest.

MAJOR GARRETT: Okay, very good. Jarrett, what's your sense of this lawsuit? How damaging it is potentially for the NFL?

JARRETT BELL: Well, on the heels of the concussion lawsuit I think it's very troubling from the NFL because it's yet another pillar that really kind of strikes to the fabric of the league and the popularity of the league and things of that nature. Some of the things that are reflected here have been addressed by the league really in terms of the medical standards. I think more needs to be done, more can be done in this casts a light on some of those issues. But I think just to circle back for a second to something that Steve talked about. There are going to be a lot of questions about the personal responsibility of players in the context of this and within the whole culture of the NFL. It's like a gladiator culture really and we've seen changes come with the concussion lawsuit in terms of how that is addressed. And I think this will cast more light on that.

MAJOR GARRETT: Sean, your thoughts.

SEAN GREGORY (TIME): And legalities aside, this is the next step in the exploration of violence in the game. We-- we-- we've talked about concussions and explored that. Now we're putting focus on organ damage, you know knee damage, all this kind of stuff. So now what's going to happen to the future of football? Youth football, already Pop Warner has had a decline of 9.5 percent in their participation between 2010 and 2012 when we did a cover story on Roger Goodell in November of 2012. From 2007 to 2011 there was another stat that said tackle football participation kids between ages of six and twelve was down thirty-five percent. So no matter what the number is, less kids seem to be playing football. So where are we going to go from there?

MAJOR GARRETT: Steve, you said that the NFL has made billions of dollars as a result of drug use that would be prohibited for horses. What do you mean by that?

STEVEN SILVERMAN: Well, what I mean by that is you have a culture of putting profit before players in the NFL. There is zero regulation inside the locker rooms, a total disregard for the law. And we have clients that-- that-- that literally are being told one thing and the ramifications are-- are-- are monstrous to them. For example--

MAJOR GARRETT: Well, hold on one second. I mean because we have about one minute. Jarrett, I want to and, Sean, I want to ask you this because you're in these locker rooms. Lawless places where players are treated like livestock?

JARRETT BELL: There is definitely a meat market culture with the NFL and there's so much pressure. It's-- it's inherent in the game. I mean-- and I think that's one of the things that really is underscored in all of this. Players play this sport knowing that there are inherent risks. Now the question is whether or not you are getting the medical attention that is really fair to the players and the-- the ethics of the people who are treating the players.

MAJOR GARRETT: And, Sean, do you think this is a 1970s and 80s problem that's been largely addressed or still a twenty-first century NFL problem?

SEAN GREGORY: I think it's gotten lot better from the NFL's point of view. You-- you hear from different recently retired players. Some say it's still a problem. Some say they got excellent care. This suit at the very least, perhaps, will make team doctors wake up and realize we've got to follow the rules.

MAJOR GARRETT: Sportswriter Sean Gregory, Jarrett Bell, and attorney Steve Silverman, thank you so much for joining us. I wish we had time for more conversation on this.

Please stay with us. We'll be right back.


MAJOR GARRETT: Pope Francis is on a tour of the Holy Land where he's doing his part to make peace in the Middle East. CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey joins us from Jerusalem.

ALLEN PIZZEY (CBS News Foreign Correspondent): Good morning, Major. Well, both Palestinians and Israelis see the Pope as a potential, if not, de facto. Allied with his gift for seizing the moment he's giving them a lesson in how to please and disconcert everyone at the same time.

(Begin VT)

ALLEN PIZZEY: The Palestinians consider the Pope's arrival direct from Jordan by helicopter and Vatican's description of it as a visit to the State of Palestine a boost in their quest for recognition. The Israelis were not amused but held their tongues. In an unscheduled stop on the way to mass, Francis got out of his Popemobile at the massive concrete security wall. The Israelis erected it ten years ago to surround Bethlehem on three sides. The crowd loved the moment engulfing the Pope while he said a silent prayer but he wasn't taking sides. In his arrival speech the Pope called the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict increasingly unacceptable.

(Pope Francis speaking foreign language)

ALLEN PIZZEY: "The time has come," Francis said, "for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative in the service of the common good." And he offered to help. Ten thousand people gathered for mass in Manger Square were the first to hear Pope Francis step directly into the stalled peace process.

(Pope Francis speaking foreign language)

ALLEN PIZZEY: He invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres to join him in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace at my home in the Vatican.

(End VT)

ALLEN PIZZEY: That's a biblical version of an offer you can't refuse and both sides accepted. Major.

MAJOR GARRETT: Allen Pizzey, thank you.

And we'll be back in a moment.


MAJOR GARRETT: In addition to honoring veterans this weekend, we celebrate college graduates with a look at some highlights from this year's commencement speeches.

JOHN KERRY (Secretary of State): You are graduating today as the most diverse class in Yale's long history or as they call it in the NBA Donald Sterling's worst nightmare.

MICHELLE OBAMA: The truth is that Brown v. Board of Ed isn't just about our history, it's about our future. Because while that case was handed down sixty years ago, Brown is still being decided every single day, not just in our courts and schools but in how we live our lives.

JILL ABRAMSON (Former New York Times Editor): What's next for me? I don't know. So I'm in exactly the same boat as many of you.

PEYTON MANNING (University of Virginia): One regret that I've always had here is I never got to throw any football passes here on this lawn. So if you will indulge me I am going to fulfill that dream right now. If you are nervous, I understand so. Seriously, there is no pressure here at all so. If-- if you drop it, it will not be on YouTube, I promise you. So fine. Easy pass. There you go.

GENERAL COLIN POWELL (Former Secretary of State): We complain a lot today about politics and politicians and often for good reason. But we can't sit around waiting for superman or superwoman to come in 2014 or 2016. We the people are the supermen and the superwomen. We are the deciders.

SENATOR TIM SCOTT (R-South Carolina): Hold on to your dream. You don't know good music when you hear it.

BOB SCHIEFFER (Saint Anselm College/Manchester, New Hampshire): No one ever remembers a single word the commencement speaker said and they shouldn't. And you know why that is? That's because graduation day is not a day about what somebody said. It is about what you have done. You're not going to remember anything I say here today but you will never forget how you feel right now.

MAJOR GARRETT: And Bob will be back next Sunday. I'm Major Garrett. Thank you so much for watching FACE THE NATION.



Jackie Berkowitz,

(202) 600-6407

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