While this week’s coverage of the Obama administration’s exchange of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five senior Taliban officials has been generally critical, the broadcast networks have helped Team Obama out on another front — since Monday, coverage of the Veterans Affairs waiting list scandal has been virtually nonexistent.
Despite the continuously unfolding developments on the scandal, the major news networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC devoted barely two minutes this week to the story. Altogether, the morning and evening shows had a combined 46 hours of air time from Monday through Friday morning, yet offered up a mere 2 minutes and 16 seconds of coverage. Not a single VA story this week amounted to more than 30 seconds in length [MP3 audio here; video below].
On Friday, CBS This Morning reported that 18 people died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix VA, this according to acting Veterans Affairs secretary Sloan Gibson. Thus far, the story has gone unreported by both ABC and NBC.
There has been legitimate reporting on the scandal that the networks have completely skipped; the Washington Times provided further detail Thursday on the scandal, putting the story headlined “Mental health care delayed, denied to vets” on its front page. It read, in part:
Veterans seeking mental health care through the El Paso VA system were forced to wait more than two months just to get an appointment, a delay five times longer than the Veterans Affairs Department’s official estimates, according to a study released Wednesday by a congressman from Texas.
More than one-third of veterans surveyed who tried to schedule an appointment at the El Paso facility couldn’t get one, and appointments were canceled in many cases, said the study, released by Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat.
Statistics show 22 veterans a day are committing suicide and many are putting off mental health services altogether because of difficulties in getting appointments, the study said.
Also this week, lawmakers introduced a new bill aimed at correcting the massive problems at the VA. The bill is called the Veterans Choice Act, and would allow veterans to seek care or schedule appointments outside the failing VA system. This story received mere seconds of reporting from the major news networks.
Clearly, the Bergdahl story demands attention, but you would think – particularly in the hours-long morning shows – that at least a few minutes of discussion of the continuing VA debacle would be warranted. This is particularly the case when NBC’s Today devoted over 5 minutes to Al Roker’s treasure hunt, CBS This Morning brought on author to discuss booze and hangovers for over 4 minutes, and Good Morning America spent nearly 5 minutes on an interview with Jennifer Lopez.