CNN described President Barack Obama's announcement of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation "dramatic." I would call it a dramatic disgrace to our Veterans and another example of the president not holding his Cabinet Secretaries and other high level people in his administration accountable. The IRS’s Lois Lerner, director of the Exempt Organizations Division, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius were allowed to resign amid scandals when they got good and ready.
Last week, Obama stood in the same White House briefing room and defended Shinseki, refusing to utter the word resignation. What changed in nine days? The Veterans Affairs scandal start stinking to high heaven. Congressional Democrats demanded Obama get rid of Shinseki and even the usually fawning liberal media criticized his failure to deal with the problem when reports of long patient wait times surfaced almost two months ago.
If “responsibility for things always rests ultimately with me, as the President and Commander-in-Chief,” as Obama declared last week, why didn’t he immediately call for Shinseki’s resignation? Why wait, especially since as Senator and candidate in 2008, Obama was seized with the issue of improving access to care for veterans at the VA, which has been a decades long problem?
Mounting evidence, from the GAO’s testimony before Congress in April to allegations 40 veterans possibly died waiting for care at the Phoenix VA hospital, indicated the scandal was only going to get worse not better. Indeed it did. This week an Inspector General’s report of multiple VA medical facilities revealed “inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic” and the average appointment wait time at the Phoenix VA was 115 days not 24 days as the hospital reported.
“What I said to Ric today is let’s not wait for the report retrospectively to reach out immediately to veterans who are currently waiting for appointments, to make sure that they are getting better service,” Obama said last week. Well, if the president wasn’t going to wait for a report to help veterans in dire need of care, why would he wait a week to get rid of Shinseki, who has been head of the VA for the past five years and was appointed to clean it up?