Over the past few weeks there has been a somewhat steady drumbeat calling for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. These issues were first reported last November
, but only recently has this particular story gotten coverage. When the American Legion called for his resignation
, formally, people started paying attention.
The American Legion said it will formally ask President Obama to remove Shinseki from office, along with Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzl and Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey.
Shinseki, a former Army general and Vietnam veteran with two Purple Hearts, has headed the VA since January 2009.
“His patriotism and sacrifice for this nation are above reproach,” said American Legion national commander Daniel Dellinger. “However, his record as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs tells a different story. It’s a story of poor oversight and failed leadership.”
I would like to make it clear, no veteran should ever die at the mismanagement of this system, Last year, I saw a friend die in a VA hospital, I cannot ascertain as to the complications that caused her death are related to what is happening here, but I repeat no veteran should die for clerical errors, cover-ups, waiting lines etc.
Having said all of that - calling for the resignation of the Veterans Affairs Secretary is not going to solve the ongoing problem. One could go back many administrations, JFK used Agent orange and we were not prepared to treat these veterans with the after-effects of the chemical; The Reagan Administration refused to accept liability for its use during the Vietnam War. For now, I would like to look at the previous Admisitration
Early on, the department was publicly counting only about a third of the casualties stemming from the War on Terror. That was because the Department was only counting servicemen and women immediately targeted in the department's wounded-in-action statistics. That accounting method left out those who were not targeted but were wounded nonetheless, such as troops injured when they were riding two trucks back from one that was hit by a roadside bomb, or those hurt in training or transportation.
The under-reporting made it more difficult for the VA to prepare for the coming influx of requests for help. The poor sharing of information—including medical records—between the two agencies has long been a bone of contention, and it remains a challenge (albeit one that is improving) to this day.
"It's not surprising, really, that the VA ended up being poorly prepared for what happened, given the way that they were planning," said Harvard Kennedy School's Bilmes. "There was absolutely a lack of planning, a lack of capacity for planning. ... They didn't know what hit them. They were completely overwhelmed."
Additionally, the VA's claims-processing time skyrocketed early in the Bush years. In 2002, it took the VA an average of 224 days to complete claims, as compared with 166 days in 1999.
There is a little more to this story.
And VA leaders at times failed to request the funding needed to do their duty.
In 2005, under VA Secretary Jim Nicholson, after originally denying its fiscal predicament, it came out that the VA faced a $3 billion shortfall in funding for veterans health care. The situation required emergency supplemental funding from Congress.
"There was a leadership attitude that was not aggressive in pushing back against whatever administration, … or even quietly going to Congress and saying we need more people," said Gerald Manar, national veterans service deputy director at the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a former 30-year VA employee.
Interestingly, in 2008, Mr. Nicholson's Successor Anthony Principi found himself in a bit of hot water
WASHINGTON — The California company headed by former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi overcharged the agency some $6 million under a long-term contract to conduct physical evaluations on veterans applying for disability benefits, an audit has found.
The report, released Thursday, also questioned a proposal by the Department of Veterans Affairs to amend the contract with the company -- QTC Management Inc., based in Diamond Bar -- to charge higher rates than currently authorized.
Principi was the head of QTC when Bush named him to the top veterans post in 2001. He returned to the company four years later after stepping down from the Cabinet post. He now is chairman of the board.
James B. Peake, a retired Army general who now heads the VA, also worked for QTC as an executive immediately prior to being named secretary last year. At his confirmation hearings, Peake said he would recuse himself from any matters involving QTC.
Much of the inspector general's report focused on a discrepancy between the reimbursement rate for certain services called for in the contract and what QTC actually received.
The audit said that contract specifically set the reimbursement at the same rates for those services set by the Medicare program in 1998.
"QTC incorrectly updated the Medicare rates to the (program's) current rates each year rather than bill at the 1998 rates as stipulated in the contract," the audit said. "The contract is not ambiguous."
While all of this was happening, no one said a word. No one cared that our soldiers were getting shafted by a system that was out of date and corrupt. Now, it seems they want the entire leadership of the VA on a platter. Something doesn't seem right here.
Not when we have Representatives that refuse to vote for and fund things like this.
H.R. 466 – Wounded Veteran Job Security Act – This bill would actually provide job security for veterans who are receiving medical treatment for injuries suffered while fighting in defense of their country. It would prohibit employers from terminating employees who miss work while receiving treatment for a service-related disability.
H.R. 1293 -- Disabled Veterans Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Increase Act of 2009 – Here’s another bill in support of those who have fought for their country, passed by House Democrats and blocked from becoming law by Republicans.
This would increase the amount paid by the VA to disabled veterans for necessary home structural improvements from $4,100 to $6,800 for those who are more than 50% disabled, and from $1,200 to $2,000 who are less than 50%, disabled. This means, if a veteran lost the use of his legs in service of his country, the country will pay for the wheelchair ramp so that he can live at home.
By the way, the last time this ceiling was lifted was in 1992. There isn't even a fiscal reason for being against this bill, as the total cost of this bill, according to CBO estimates, would be a “whopping” $20 million. That's about a quarter (25 cents) per family of four.
You know what else kills our Vets? Homelessness. Suicide. Bad PTSD diagnoses' do. It should be noted that PTSD is now fully recognized under Secretary Shinseki's
leadership on the department. Prior to that, it wasn't.
And where were the calls and outrage over another scandal during the previous administration? Do you remember the Walter Reed Medical Hospital Neglect Scandal
? I am not excusing neglect and death of our Vets. There just seems to be misplaced anger now, at this time. I don't like seeing our troops - current and former - AND their suffering being used as a political toy. And believe me, this is political.