Immediate and direct actions certainly are needed to correct the myriad problems that have been reported in the Veterans Administration’s health care system, but firing VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is not one of them.
Shinseki has come under bipartisan fire in the wake of allegations about misconduct at VA hospitals that include unacceptable backlogs of disability claims and inappropriate scheduling practices leading to delayed care and in some cases even the possible deaths of veterans awaiting care.
While every government agency must have a high degree of accountability and Shinseki, as head of the Veterans Administration, certainly bears the ultimate responsibility for the performance of the VA and its medical facilities, firing him will not do anything to correct the problems that confront the medical system established to take care of this country’s veterans.
Shinseki’s ouster actually might only serve to delay the crafting and implementation of the reforms needed to ensure that every U.S. veteran has full and timely access to the medical services they need and deserve.
A new VA director would have to start from scratch to learn all he or she can about the administration and identify the problems and misconduct that currently exist within it. And the VA would be under the direction of an interim secretary during the long process to install a new secretary, which would all but certainly include a contentious and protracted political fight to win Senate confirmation for President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Shinseki.
The nation’s veterans sacrificed much for this country, and they were promised – and deserve – the best medical care their country and fellow citizens can provide. But they often face unacceptable hurdles to receiving the care and attention they need.
It is Shinseki’s responsibility to identify the problems that have caused the disturbing allegations of claim backlogs and delayed care that are a horrible disservice to veterans. He should be prodded and supervised as he attempts to do so.