An array of lawmakers from both parties called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign following the publication of a new report describing the "systemic" practice of mishandling medical appointments at a Veterans Affairs facility in Phoenix that may have led to the deaths of 23 veterans.
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters the president is waiting for an internal review to pass judgement on Shinseki, a review Carney said is due this week. That could set the stage for Shinseki’s ouster, a prospect that is increasingly likely given the breadth of Democratic lawmakers calling for his head.
The report that sparked the original furor, an internal assessment by the VA’s Inspector General, confirmed a number of allegations plaguing the Phoenix hospital in recent months. It said 1,700 veterans waiting to see a doctor hadn’t actually been scheduled for an appointment or placed on a waiting list, raising questions about how many more remained "forgotten or lost" in the system. It also said that the inspector general has expanded his review to 42 VA facilities, beyond the 26 initially designated. Earlier reports found that the VA manipulated record-keeping that covered up lengthy waiting periods for veterans, some of whom ended up dying in the process.
In a cluster of tweets and press releases hours after the report’s release on Wednesday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.), House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Calif.), and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) demanded that Shinseki resign. Bleeding into Thursday, a growing number of Democrats called for his resignation, including Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John Walsh (D-Mont.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Or.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Mary Landrieu (D-L.A.) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
"In light of IG report & systemic issues at @DeptVetAffairs, Sec. Shinseki must step down," tweeted Udall.
For his part, Shinseki called the IG findings "reprehensible" and ordered the 1,700 veterans be immediately given care. He has said he does not plan to step down and would instead stay in his post until the problems were fixed.
For many lawmakers, that simply isn’t good enough. McKeon, for instance, praised Shinseki’s long service in the military but said the retired four-star general had lost the confidence of veterans. "General Shinseki has given his life to serving this country and for that, we are in his debt. However, the problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs have grown beyond what this nation can bear," the lawmaker said in a statement. "I believe America’s veterans would be best served with a fresh set of eyes on the VA system. Only new innovations and aggressive reform can get the problems at the VA under control."
Shinseki, a Vietnam combat veteran, also received praise from Miller, who called him a "good man who has served his country honorably." Still, Miller said Shinseki "failed to get VA’s health care system in order despite repeated and frequent warnings from Congress, the Government Accountability Office and the IG." Miller added that Shinseki "appears completely oblivious to the severity of the health care challenges facing the department."
McCain, who had been reluctant to ask a fellow Vietnam veteran to resign, said on Wednesday that the situation in Phoenix wasn’t an "isolated" incident.
"Every other VA is probably going to have these same influences on them, because they were trying to comply with guidelines that were laid down from the headquarters of VA which they couldn’t meet," he told CNN. "So I haven’t said this before, but I think it’s time for General Shinseki to move on."
FP’s Situation Report: VA hid waiting lists, Shinseki feels the heat; No drone strikes in Pakistan since December; Obama: America’s great hammer shouldn’t be looking for a nail; FP wins: Nicole Duran, Kate Brannen aboard; and a bit more.Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel SobelGordon Lubold is a senior writer at FP and author of Situation Report with help by Nathaniel Sobel, director of research at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. Follow him @glubold and him @njsobe4. | Situation Report |
Yochi Dreazen is a Managing Editor for News at Foreign Policy. He is also writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security. His book about military suicide was published by Random House's Crown division in 2014.
Prior to joining Foreign Policy, Dreazen was a contributing editor at the Atlantic and the senior national security correspondent for National Journal. He began his career at the Wall Street Journal and spent 11 years at the newspaper, most recently as its military correspondent. He was born in Chicago, and later attended the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he edited the award-winning daily campus newspaper and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1999 with degrees in History and English. He was hired by the Wall Street Journal immediately after graduation. Dreazen arrived in Iraq in April 2003 with the Fourth Infantry Division, and spent the next two years living in Baghdad as the Wall Street Journal's main Iraq correspondent.
Dreazen has made more than 12 lengthy trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and has spent a total of nearly four years on the ground in the two countries, mostly doing front-line combat embeds. He has reported from more than 20 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, China, Israel, Japan, Turkey, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.
In 2010, Dreazen received the Military Reporters & Editors association’s top award for domestic military reporting in a large publication for a series of articles about military suicide and the psychological traumas impacting veterans of the two long wars. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Smithsonian, Tablet and the New Republic and he appears regularly on TV and radio programs such as NPR's Diane Rehm Show and PBS' Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. Dreazen gives frequent lectures about journalism, the wars and current events to both civilian and military audiences.
Dreazen lives in Washington with his wife, Annie Rosenzweig Dreazen, and their beloved Golden Retriever, Charlie.| The Cable |
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Report |