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John McCain: Obama's VA visit long "overdue"

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 9: Sen. John McCain takes questions and comments during a forum with Arizona Veterans over mismanagement at the Phoenix VA May 9, 2014 at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix, Arizona.

Laura Segall, Getty Images

Almost a year after a scandal at a Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital made headlines, President Obama paid a visit to the facility whose wait times may have caused the deaths of at least 50 former service members.

But Arizona Sen. John McCain thinks the visit is too little, too late.

The former Vietnam veteran called Mr. Obama's trip long "overdue" and the administration's response to the VA misconduct "unsatisfactory."

"We're certainly glad that President Obama used his long-term overdue visit to the Phoenix VA to announce the creation of yet another advisory committee to study the problem," Mccain said to reporters after his meeting with Mr. Obama at the hospital. "The truth is while thousands of Arizona veterans continue to experience unacceptable delays in VA care, the Obama administration has been slow and reluctant to fundamentally reform VA operations."

"It served more as a photo-op for the president than it did a meaningful discussion of the challenges our veterans continue to face in getting the timely healthcare they've earned and deserved," McCain continued, flanked by fellow Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona.

"There's a lot of trust that still needs to develop here after what what went on here," Flake added.

But Mr. Obama, in a roundtable with VA Secretary Robert McDonald, mentioned that the scandal shouldn't overshadow the hospitals' quality of care.

"Just because there have been a few bad apples...I don't want that to detract from the outstanding work of others inside this organization," Mr. Obama said at the Phoenix facility.

"We all know that there have been significant problems at this facility - that the kind of cooking the books and unwillingness to face up to the fact that veterans were not being adequately served went on too long and as a consequence, we didn't fix what needed to be fixed," the president said, acknowledging the healthcare failures.

The visit was meant to announce the creation of a new advisory committee focused on improving VA service. With private sector leaders, and members from the non-profit and academic sides, the committee is meant to restore trust in a system with a focus on better patient outcomes.

"Trust is one of those things that you can lose real quick and then takes some time to build," the president said. "The good news is there are some outstanding folks at this VA and all the VAs across the country who are deserving of trust. But it's important that veterans know that somebody's got their backs and that if there are problems that we're not being defensive about them. We're not hiding them."