When President Barack Obama’s Veterans Affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki, announced his resignation last week, the president said “the VA needs new leadership,” in order to address the systemic failures that have been fatal for at least 40 veterans.
Shinseki appears to have turned a blind eye to his agency’s total lack of respect for the lives of those it was supposed to serve. In the tried and true manner of far too many figures who are supposed to be in charge, Shinseki said he would resign, not because he felt responsible for the misconduct that led to nearly 2,000 military veterans being placed on a never-ending waiting list, but because he did not want to be a “distraction.”
Both Obama and Shinseki continue to use language that indicates they do not understand the magnitude of the wrong done to those who gave everything they had to our country. Calling it a “problem” or “situation” instead of the criminal neglect it was, and referring to reports of “questionable scheduling practices,” demonstrate just how little the two cared about the government-run health care system that was supposed to serve the needs of those who served the rest of us.
There is no outrage. There is no sense of urgency-only a few carefully timed furrowed brows and one politically expedient resignation, again, only to take away a “distraction.” And still, our veterans wait for the service they deserve.
Shinseki’s resignation was necessary, but not because he was distracting anyone from making things right. His departure should not put an end to investigations into his role in the matter, or whether neglect and misconduct throughout the agency has reached a criminal level.
Obama and his new appointee, Sloan Gibson, cannot now breathe a sigh of relief that perhaps Shinseki’s resignation will take off some pressure. They must not rest until they have done all in their power to provide timely, quality health care to all military veterans.
It is too late for 40 of our finest. Not another minute should go by before the Obama administration has done right by the rest.