Following the release of a new report on terrible conditions at Veterans Affairs hospitals around the country, the calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki are growing louder. Members of Congress from both parties have said that the secretary, a veteran himself, can no longer lead the department due to the scope of the wrongdoing. "The inspector general's preliminary report makes it clear that the systemic problems at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are so entrenched that they require new leadership to be fixed," said Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado in a statement. "Secretary Shinseki must step down."
Yet President Barack Obama has publicly voiced his support for Shinseki, and the secretary published an op-ed in USA Today Thursday detailing his administration's desire to address the issues. “We are doing all we can to accelerate access to care throughout our system and in communities where veterans reside,” he wrote. “I've challenged our leadership to ensure we are doing everything possible to schedule veterans for their appointments. We, at the Department of Veterans Affairs, are redoubling our efforts, with commitment and compassion, to restore integrity to our processes to earn veterans' trust.”
The editorial board of the Arizona Republic wrote that the evidence that 1,700 veterans had been put on unofficial waiting lists for appointments and had waited an average of 115 days for a primary-care appointment at a Phoenix, Arizona, VA facility prove that Shinseki needs to step down. The board notes that Shinsheki has held his position since 2009, giving him ample time to address issues raised in the 18 reports released since 2005 that chronicled the extended wait times. “He has not been oblivious, yet there is little if any indication the secretary acted to address the problem,” the board wrote. “As bad as it appears today, it shows every sign of getting worse. Shinseki needs to recognize that and leave.”
Allahpundit of Hot Air wrote that the release of the report Wednesday should force Obama to reconsider his decision to stand behind Shineseki. “Obama said last week that he wanted to reserve judgment and see what the investigations turned up before he made any personnel decisions; a week later here we are, with the [inspector general] reminding readers up front that fully 18 reports about scheduling problems at the VA have been issued by his office since 2005,” Allahpundit wrote. “How many more 'studies' does Obama need? Pull the plug already.”
Problems at the VA long predated Shinseki, wrote Doug Mataconis of Outside the Beltway. “Getting rid of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs isn’t going to solve the problems at the VA unless it is also accompanied by the removal of the people further down the chain responsible for these decisions,” he wrote.
“Notwithstanding whatever his achievements may have been in the military, it seems clear that Shinseki is not up the task of running and reforming a bureaucracy that has been a mess for decades,” Mataconis continued. “[I]t’s exceedingly clear that the Obama Administration will not be able to put this scandal behind it unless changes are made at the top.”
Chris Stirewalt of Fox News said the growing list of Democrats calling for Shinseki’s resignation is going to make it tough for the Obama administration to ignore the noise. “Election Day is just 22 weeks away,” he wrote. “[Democrats] need a symbolic firing, the appointment of a blue ribbon commission and a quick pivot away from an issue that could cost additional seats. Obama needs the perception of calm to prevent this from engulfing his administration. Senate Democrats need to show they can get results in response to public outrage."