The hammer fell as the Office of Inspector General for the Veterans Administration issued its report regarding the allegations of gross mismanagement at the Veterans Affairs facility in Phoenix, Arizona.
The report issued by the IG was more damaging than anyone had expected.
In the report, the IG reported, that VA national data, which was reported by Phoenix HCS, showed 226 veterans waited on average 24 days for their first primary care appointment and only 43 percent waited more than 14 days. However, our review showed these 226 veterans waited on average 115 days for their first primary care appointment with approximately 84 percent waiting more than 14 days.
The findings of this report set off fireworks across Capitol Hill, especially in a rare night time hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee which is delving into the scandal that has rocked the Veterans Affairs Administration.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller, R-Fla., subpoenaed three VA figures: VA Assistant Deputy Secretary for Health Thomas Lynch, Assistant VA Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs Joan Mooney and VA Congressional Relations Officer Michael Huff.
The committee hearing was heated as members wanted answers to the egregious and scandalous treatment of the nation’s veterans.
President Obama is facing a withering attack from both sides of the political spectrum to relieve VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
A senior White House official has stated there is no change in the president’s position regarding his confidence in Shinseki.
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued a press statement, “The controversy over Gen. Shinseki’s leadership has taken attention away from the real issue – the need for swift, decisive action to reform the VA, change its culture, and ensure that we provide quality, timely services for our veterans.
Warner continued, “Gen. Shinseki has served our country with distinction. I now believe he should step aside in order to allow our focus and our efforts to be on making the critically needed changes to fix the VA.”
In an op-ed in USA Today, Shinseki stated, “The findings of the interim report of VA’s Office of Inspector General on the Phoenix VA Health Care System are reprehensible to me and to this department, and we are not waiting to set things straight.”
The problem is that he is the face of the Veterans Affairs and no matter what strategy is implemented the scandal happened on his watch.
As a Veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, the problems at the VA are bigger than one person. The VA is a giant bureaucratic maze that has been dysfunctional well before this scandal arose.
Right now both political parties are using this scandal to tar the other side. The VA has been broken for decades, well before the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
President Obama needs to take serious leadership and appoint a bi-partisan group of individuals to look into the problems, and to make serious reforms at the VA.
A few individuals come to mind. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Former General Colin Powell, former Democratic Senator from Virginia, who also served as Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan.
The president has to get out front of this scandal otherwise it will consume his presidency, especially leading up to the 2014 mid-term elections.