The head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, a former Army general, resigned Friday.
The problems with healthcare for veterans that have recently come to light are disgraceful and if Shinseki knew about this, it is bad. If he didn’t know about this, it’s even worse.
In both cases, he wasn’t doing his job, although, according to The New York Times, care is much better today than it was during the Vietnam.
Veterans at some facilities are facing long waits for care, and it was being fraudulently hidden.
The seeds of Shinseki’s departure may have been sown years ago, when he established standards that his supporters said were admirable but unrealistically high. He set 125 days as the goal for processing disability claims and was then blamed for the backlog that ensued. For new patients, he required that veterans be seen within two weeks.
However, it is the job of a manager to know what is going on with his employees.
Facilities are understaffed, and Shinseki needed to be bringing up a conversation to fix it. Undoubtedly, the problems are deeply entrenched and existed before he took his position in 2009.
The problems will not be fixed overnight and his replacement may do no better. During his tenure, Shinseki made some reforms. He launched an internal review and began the process of firing some top people. But details of an independent report released in recent days by the VA inspector general’s office outlining systemic problems ended his job.
Perhaps he was a fall guy, but it was his responsibility, and he took it. The buck stops at the top.
That also is true for those on the national legislative committees in the House and Senate charged with oversight of veteran’s affairs. There apparently was little oversight.
Included among this is Kansas Representative Tim Huelskamp. If he knew about this, it is bad. If he didn’t know about this, it’s even worse.
Those on the committees weren’t doing their job either. Let’s just hope they take responsibility as well instead of creating distractions.