Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki finds himself in scalding water as the investigation into allegations that his department let veterans die while waiting to be treated and also changed waiting lists to cover up long delays for veterans seeking health care continues. While Shinseki, a retired Army general, assured Congress that he is "mad as hell," he has yet to take responsibility and resign.
Last month, CNN reported that at least 40 veterans have died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system and many were placed on a secret waiting list. Now we are learning that there could be more. Richard Griffin, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Inspector General, told a Senate panel Thursday that he had uncovered new evidence of wrongly reported wait times at VA facilities and possibly more secret waiting lists. Griffin said he not found any veterans who died due to wait times so far, but his investigation was ongoing.
Regardless of the final results of the investigation, the fact that we know that there are people in our government not doing their jobs, letting American heroes rot and escaping accountability should infuriate all Americans. This has all happened under Shinseki's watch. There is no excuse for him not knowing about these practices and either putting a stop to them himself or alerting Congress and demanding a legislative solution.
Matters will only continue to worsen if Shinseki is not held accountable and Congress does nothing to rectify this crisis. Veterans will continue to suffer substandard care and more will die. Access to proper care is also becoming more of a problem as Vietnam veterans age and increasing numbers of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars seek treatment for physical and mental health problems.
It is time for Shinseki, a man who served his country in uniform, to perform one last act of honor and step down. Meanwhile, Congress should investigate ways to reform the dysfunctional Veteran Affairs Department and give our veterans the treatment they richly deserve for their service.