WASHINGTON — Americans’ confidence in the medical care provided for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has plummeted to new lows in the wake of the VA scandal, a USA Today/Princeton Survey Research poll finds. Most people see the problem as widespread and systemic.
Just one in five rate the job the government does in providing veterans with medical care as excellent or good, about half the percentage who said that in a Pew Research Center survey in 2011. Then, half rated the care as “only fair” or poor; now seven in 10 do.
Those are the lowest ratings in the four times the question has been asked since 2007.
The results underscore the concerns raised by reports that veterans faced months of delay in getting medical appointments and that some Veterans Affairs officials tried to conceal the long wait times. President Obama accepted VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation Friday.
Those surveyed are inclined to disapprove of the way the Obama administration is handling the issue: 32 percent approve; 45 percent disapprove.
The USA Today poll of 1,001 adults, taken Thursday through Sunday, has a margin of error of +/-3.6 percentage points.
By 67 percent to 16 percent, Americans see the problems at the VA as widespread, not isolated incidents. Respondents say significant changes are required in the way the agency operates, but only 12 percent are very confident the VA can fix the problems; 42 percent are somewhat confident. Another 42 percent aren’t confident the problems can be fixed.
Eight in 10 worry that the issue is turning into a political battle in which Democrats and Republicans are more interested in scoring points than solving the issue. A 51 percent majority say they are “very concerned” about that.
The scandal has reinforced the debate over whether the soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are getting the support they deserve when they come home. For the first time, a majority of those surveyed, 53 percent, say the American people do not give the returning soldiers enough support.
Nearly seven in 10 say the U.S. government doesn’t give enough support.