WASHINGTON -- A former Republican member of Congress sentenced to eight years in federal prison over bribery charges said this week that one of the reasons the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs hasn't gotten a lot of attention or oversight is that there's not much money in it for politicians.
"Being on the Intelligence Committee, Defense Appropriations and Education Committee, all of those have individual issues within the committee that fights for dollars," former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) told The Huffington Post during an interview this week. That's not the case with the VA, he said.
"I'll tell you what, when there's dollars to be divided out, sometimes it's very difficult to get those down to the Veterans Committee," he said, though he believes there are many "dedicated" members of Congress on the committee, many of whom have served in the military.
Cunningham himself knows a bit about how the VA works. Now that he's out of prison, the veteran's prostate cancer is being treated at the VA hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. His niece is a nurse there, and he said the system has actually worked well for him.
"Speaking for myself, they've been pretty good. I have a problem, they schedule it, it may take a little while because of their caseload, but they've been very supportive," Cunningham said.
But he said that VA administrators "need to get hurt" for all of the problems in the VA system, "which actually cost the lives of many of our veterans."
"I would hope that all of the men and women that are coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq and other places get the help that they need," Cunningham said.