VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned today. Shinseki, who formerly was the Army Chief of Staff, had much experience dealing with a big bureaucracy. The VA didn’t have active duty military people in it who were used to obeying orders–so it was different, but one hoped he could figure that out.
In his resignation announcement, Shinseki said the “breach of integrity is irresponsible; It is indefensible and unacceptable to me.” He said he was “too trusting” of some top officials and “accepted as accurate reports that I now know to have been misleading with regard to patient wait times.” I’d accept this statement at face value if this was his first–or even second–year on the job; but this is year 6.
In response to a question, Obama said he would leave it to the Justice Department to determine “whether there’s been criminal wrongdoing” within the VA system. There clearly has been criminal wrongdoing–people died and nothing was done. Bonuses were wrongly claimed and taken–and that’s just the beginning. That said, I have zero faith in the ability of the Justice Dept to charge anyone. Shinseki should be under charges now.
Reacting to the resignation, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters that Shinseki’s departure does not absolve Obama of blame and vowed that congressional Republicans would hold the president accountable for fixing the problems. He urged Obama to order the VA to cooperate with a House investigation and to “outline his vision” for getting to the bottom of the problems. I agree with Boehner–this is Obama’s issue.
What it’s clearly going to take to fix the VA is a strong leader who will fire and replace virtually everyone in authority–at least in Washington. They either created or supported the VA culture of “ignore vets, lie, and get bonuses.” That’s a huge effort that’s going to take a long time. Perhaps it would be easier to end the VA–and replace it with another entity.
In the meanwhile, maybe the military should take over the VA hospitals and clinics. Despite the recent problems at some Army hospitals, the people there can work as long as necessary–because they aren’t unionized–and know about taking care of soldiers.
While that’s going on, a new office needs to be created to contact all vets in the VA system, determine what their needs are, and get them access to any local doctor or hospital as soon and as often as they need it. With this needs to be a law-enforcement arm, as a good number of people being treated by the VA aren’t really entitled to the care–they’re cheats or liars, and they’re just getting away with it–because the VA let them.
Last though. This is a great example of Government Controlled Medicine. It’s bad news.