Secretary Shinseki is an American hero who courageously served his country in war, rose to be the Army chief of staff and has dedicated his distinguished career to helping his fellow soldiers and veterans. I am sad that he resigned.
The unequivocal goal of the VA must be to provide the highest-quality health care possible to all of our veterans in a timely manner. The new leadership must transform the culture of the VA, establish accountability and punish those responsible for the reprehensible manipulation of wait times. As chairman of the Senate veterans’ committee I look forward to working with President Obama, the new VA leadership and my Senate colleagues to make that happen.(Continued Below)
In direct contrast to the Republican Party, Bernie Sanders recognized that the VA’s problems cannot be solved by playing the blame game. In February, he proposed a bill to address chronic under resourcing at the VA – a bill that Republicans blocked. Sanders recognizes that the VA does have management and administrative problems but it also needs more facilities and more healthcare providers to address the inevitability of increased demand as a country in perpetual war.
Now that Republicans and the beltway punditry have their pound of flesh, Veterans deserve real solutions to the problems that have plagued the Veterans Administration for decades. Problems which have nothing to do with Eric Shinseki. If we are going to play the blame game, then look no further than Republicans who have consistently under resourced the VA then blamed the VA for its inability to meet ever increasing demand.
It’s the same game Republicans play for any and all programs they don’t like. Under resource them, blame Democrats, then pitch throwing people, in this case our vets, to unaccountable corporate wolves. It’s the same game they play when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, Medic-Aid, education and prisons.
As usual, the Republican “solution” would benefit their corporate friends and this time Veterans would pay the price.
Just consider that the VA provides facilities in rural areas that the private sector ignores because, frankly, those locations aren’t profitable enough. Moreover, the VA’s facilities have specialists to provide the sort of care that veterans need, but is not available at private facilities. As Suzanne Gordon explains:
Many injured soldiers have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with what is known as poly-trauma — PTSD plus traumatic brain injury and limb amputations. Few primary care physicians — or even specialists — have much experience treating such cases in the private sector. In fact, without the VA, vets would have trouble getting any primary care services given the serious shortage of primary care providers in this country.
Perhaps Eric Shinseki did the right thing by resigning, but giving Republicans his head and probably those of other high level officials at the VA won’t solve a thing.
As a temporary measure, we should extend care beyond the VA, because our Vets need care now. They have already waited an unacceptable period of time to see a doctor, let alone get the treatment they need.
It will be up to Democrats to lead by reintroducing the Vets benefits bill that Republicans blocked in February. Without question, Republicans will block it again while claiming that throwing the Vets to corporate wolves is the solution.
It will also be up to us to stand by our Vets, not only by voting out the laziest lawmakers in our history, but by making their lives miserable while they continue to accept their pay checks and spend the bulk of their time meeting with corporate donors and the rest of it claiming to care about vets but doing nothing.