Just over a year ago, I called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down. Despite having said repeatedly that he had more than adequate resources to fix the host of problems in his Veterans’ Affairs department, nothing seems to be getting fixed.
Last year, it was the 2,000 percent backlog increase for applications for veterans’ benefits. This year, it’s the death of 40 patients waiting for care at a Phoenix VA hospital which sparked outrage and has encouraged more people to finally call on Secretary Shinseki to resign.
On Wednesday, VA Secretary Shinseki was on Capitol Hill answering questions about this gross negligence on the part of his agency. In the hearing, he stated that he accepts full responsibility for the horrors inflicted on veterans and that he was “mad as hell.” He also made it clear that he would not be resigning and urged legislators to wait for the findings of an internal investigation before trying to resolve the problems with the VA.
Secretary Shinseki labeled possible links between long waits and veteran deaths as “allegations” and says the overall state of the VA is good to-date. Shinseki has put three employees on administrative (paid) leave at the request of the Inspector General’s office. Otherwise, he has done little to hold people accountable or fire anyone for this disgusting neglect of our veterans.
On CNN this week, Jake Tapper interviewed White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and asked a question I couldn’t have put better myself: “How many stories like this, how many letters like this, how many dead veterans do you need before someone starts asking the question within the White House: maybe this guy isn’t the best steward of these veterans?” Of course, as you might imagine, McDonough didn’t directly answer this pointed question. But with Shinseki refusing to step down on his own, it’s time for the Obama Administration to put veterans first by firing VA Secretary Shinseki.
It boils down to this simple truth: the men and women who put their lives on the line for our freedom deserve better than this. They deserve better than facing death as they sit and wait for the care they desperately need. These brave soldiers were willing to risk their lives to protect us, and we owe it to them to take the best care of them here at home.
I hope and pray that Secretary Shinseki comes to his senses and realizes it is past time he step down and allow someone else to take care of our veterans. If he doesn’t resign promptly, it’s absolutely vital that President Obama stands up for our veterans by firing him. We must be a nation who puts our veterans first, and removing Secretary Shinseki is how we as a nation can begin to accomplish that.
To help us pressure President Obama into taking action, please click on the link to Citizens United’s website and sign our letter-writing campaign calling on President Obama to fire Secretary Shinseki. It will take your help in numbers to get President Obama to act. Although it is a shame that it takes letters of this nature for the Administration to even consider decisive action, it is the least we can do as a nation to see that our veterans get the best care possible.