Given the pace at which scandals unfold in our nation’s capital, there is no guarantee that Eric Shinseki, the former Army general, is still the secretary of the beleaguered U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs by the time this is read. While the medical care the VA provides has its ardent defenders, a report issued this week outlined management problems at the agency that, among other things, have created waiting lines for VA health services that have resulted in some veterans dying before receiving medical care, and efforts by VA officials to downplay the problem.
The report provoked a bipartisan call for Shinseki to resign. U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, issued a statement noting Shinseki, who lost part of a foot in Vietnam, had “proudly served” the nation during a military career that include time as the Army chief of staff. Nevertheless, Bilirakis said Shinseki’s resignation would be “an important first step” in an effort to end the “culture of mediocrity” at the VA health service.
Bilirakis says the VA needs a “complete overhaul.” For years, this space has suggested the VA had become such a massive bureaucracy that it was beyond redemption. Veterans deserve the best medical care the nation can provide, but the VA may not be the best source of that care. The federal government almost certainly would get more for its veterans health care dollars if it paid to have veterans cared for by private providers.
We know, however, the VA, like all large government organizations, has a powerful constituency that will fight for it, and the status quo probably will survive this current controversy.