The VA should have been prepared for the number in claims to rise. Instead, Shinseki has provided repeated excuses for the VA’s failure to perform, along with unrealistic promises for how quickly the matter could be turned around. Most recently, Shinseki has vowed that the current backlog will be eliminated by 2015, a target that virtually no one believes is possible, given that more veterans’ claims are being added to the pile every day.
To be sure, the VA can’t take all the blame. Some delays stem from the fact that once an individual separates from active duty, the Department of Defense has failed to deliver records to the VA in a timely manner. In some cases, it has taken 175 days for the Pentagon to transfer the records to the VA.
It’s not just veterans who are growing frustrated—even the best VA employees are overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the mountain of paperwork, and their morale is suffering. That reflects a failure of basic management and a failure of leadership.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) is dedicated to developing solutions to the VA benefits crisis. On June 20, CVA will host a special panel presentation in Washington, D.C., focusing on VA reform. Visit http://concernedveteransforamerica.org/advancereform/ to learn more and view the live stream of the event.
Secretary Shinseki assumed his leadership post promising to fix the mess at the VA. Many of us were hopeful he would succeed; after all, he was a distinguished U.S. Army general with a reputation for integrity and a record of honorable service. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough.
The situation at the VA can be repaired, but it won’t be easy. The first step must be for the president to relieve Secretary Shinseki of his post, sending a message of change to the entire VA, and then to appoint a new leader skilled in corporate transformation to lead a departmental turnaround. Don’t delay, Mr. President—our veterans have waited too long already.