'This Week': Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

ABC's Martha Raddatz goes one-on-one with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
6:51 | 05/11/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
Outrage growing this weekend over the way men and women who serve our country are treated when they return home. Now both families and congress are demanding answers from the Obama administration official in charge. ABC's Jim Avila has the latest. Reporter: It started here, the Phoenix V.A., where 40 veterans died while waiting for a doctor's appointment. An inside whistleblower doctor telling congress delays of up to 21 months were hidden from Washington bosses so his immediate spear yours could earn bonuses. Patients were dying because of it. That's the point where we said, we can't take this any more. Reporter: Like Phoenix vet and purple heart winner Ralph mccastro. He died after waiting months for a specialist's visit to diagnose the lump on his neck after a routine checkup. He kept this journal documenting the calls he made for 15 months trying to schedule a V.A. Visit that never came. Still making calls to the Phoenix V.A. Why the hell can't our federal government and the V.A. Do this for our fighting soldiers that have given their arms, their sight, their legs, and their life for this country? Reporter: The V.A. Says it's investigating the charges and is conducting a nationwide audit. And there's pressure for the V.A. Secretary, Eric shinseki, to resign. There's universal out our members are disappointed and betrayed. They've been at war for over a decade. Our members did their part. The V.A. Is not doing theirs. Reporter: This week, shinisseki is scheduled to testify before congress. Our thanks, Jim. We went straight to chuck Hagel in our exclusive interview yesterday. It's a scandal that's shaken military families across the country. Should it cost veteran affairs secretary Eric shinseki his job? Already, the American legion has called on the retired four-star general and Vietnam vet to step aside. Should general shinseki be accountable? There is no one who understands accountability more than general shinseki. Does he have your support you? I do support general shinseki. But there's no margin here. If this, in fact, or any variation of this occurred, all the way along the chain accountability is going to have to be upheld here. Because, we can never let this kind of outrage, if all of this is true, stand in this country. The average wait is five months. Is that taking care of our veterans? No, it's not good enough. Obviously. It has to be better. Shouldn't we have predicted that there would be a backlog? We were in the middle of two wars. We had tens of thousands, millions deployed in this period. And no one predicted that, including general shinseki. I don't think it just started with his term at the V.A. This is something that should have been looked at years and years ago. So yes, we missed it. Reporter: Meanwhile, he has the other crisis to deal with. The urgent search to find the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria. The U.S. Already has support teams on the ground. Give us a reality check. How hard is it going to be to find these girls? It will be very difficult. It's a vast country. This is is not going to be an easy task. We're going to bring to bear every asset we can possibly use to help the Nigerian government. I know one of the things people keep saying is why wouldn't U.S. Special operators go in and try to find the girls? Well, I think you look at everything. But there's no intention, at this point, to be putting American boots on the ground. Reporter: Hagel is also keeping a close eye on new developments in Ukraine, where satellite images show Vladimir Putin's troops are not going anywhere. Still massed along the Ukrainian border. What are they doing? Why aren't they leaving? They're not leaving as far as we can tell. You would have to ask president Putin as to why he says they're leaving when, in fact, they're not. Should Russia be considered an enemy? It's easy to categorize an enemy. We're not at war with Russia. Do you define whether you're at war or not? Adversary? Adversary in Ukraine, sure. But I think that is simplistic. To get into either enemy, friend, partner. So on. Russia continues to isolate itself for a short-term gain. They, the Russians, may feel that somehow they're winning. But, the world is not about just short term. Reporter: One of the long-term issues Hagel has been focusing on, cybersecurity. And the growing threat from cyberattacks. Especially since the Pentagon relies more on advanced technology, like drones. Do you feel confident that our drones, guided weapons, will not be hacked? I'm not confident of anything in this business. You can't be. But the fact is, Martha, it's as dangerous a threat that we're dealing with, the world deals with, especially the united States, as any one threat. It's quiet. It's insidious. It's deadly. People are not paying enough attention to this? I do fear that's true. We are. I'll tell you, we are. Reporter: One year into his tenure, he's facing a new issue. While the end of don't ask, don't tell means gays and lesbians with now serve openly. Transgender service members can still be dismissed without question. Is that something that should be looked at again? The issue of transgender is a bit more complicated. It has a medical component to it. These issues require medical attention. Um, austere locations where we put our men and women in many cases don't always provide that kind of opportunity. I do think it continually should be reviewed. I'm open to that. By the way. I'm open to those assessments. Again, I go back to the bottom line. Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have the opportunity, if they fit the qualifications and can do it. This is an area we have not defined enough.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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