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Tag Archives: Eric Shinseki

Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki Resigns

President Obama today announced that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned, saying Shinseki himself had come to the conclusion that he could no longer function effectively.

Speaking at the White House, Obama said that the resignation was based on “Rick’s judgement” and Shinseki’s belief that he would be a distraction:

He has worked hard to investigate and identify the problems with access to care, but as he told me this morning, the VA needs new leadership to address them.

He does not want to be a distraction, because his priority is to fix the problem and make sure our vets are getting the care that they need. That was Ric’s judgment on behalf of his fellow veterans. And I agree. We don’t have time for distractions; we need to fix the problem.

Obama seemed to minimize Shinseki’s culpability, saying Shinseki was “offended” information about the problems at the VA didn’t get up the chain of command to the secretary.

I think he is deeply disappointed in the fact that bad news did not get to him and that the structures weren’t in place for him to identify this problem quickly and fix it. 

But Obama was also careful to gently lay some of the blame on Shinseki:

This morning I think some of you also heard Ric take a truly remarkable action. In public remarks, he took responsibility for the conduct of those facilities and apologized to his fellow veterans and to the American people. And a few minutes ago, Secretary Shinseki offered me his own recognition. With considerable regret, I accept it.

Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson will take over as acting secretary, said Obama, who indicated someone else would be brought in as a permanent replacement.

Obama acknowledged that as president he bears responsibility, and then he immediately seemed to pass the buck, noting the VA’s problems predated him, saying he’d done much to help the agency, and blaming others for not bringing the issue to his or Shinseki’s attention.

This predates my presidency. When I was in the Senate, I was on the Veterans Affairs Committee. I heard first-hand veterans who were not getting the kinds of services and benefits that they had earned . . . 

And so, what I can say confidently is that this has been a priority. It’s been a priority reflected in my budget, and that in terms of managing the VA, where we have seen a problem — where we have been aware of a problem, we have gone after it and fixed it and have been able to make significant progress.

But what is absolutely clear is, this one — this issue of scheduling is one that the reporting systems inside of the VHA did not surface to the level where Rick (sp) was aware of it we were able to see it. This was not something that we were hearing when I was traveling around the country, the particular issue of scheduling.

Obama said changes will be needed at the VA, including a change of culture. But his focus seemed to be on throwing more money at the place, not a wholesale reform in the way veterans get their healthcare, as is being suggested by some Republicans.

“We may need to get more doctors and we may need to get more nurses,” Obama said.

Shinseki Apologizes but Gives No Hint He’ll Resign

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized publicly today for the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but suggested he was apologizing for the sins of others and gave no indication he is about to resign.

“Given the facts I know now, I apologize as the senior leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Shinseki said, indicating that he has come to understand the “systemic” nature of the problem and charging that some at the VA had displayed an “indefensible” lack of integrity.

He said he would take new steps to hold people accountable.

Shinseki is meeting with President Obama this morning at the White House.

Carney Refuses to Say Obama has Confidence in Shinseki

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today carefully avoided saying that President Obama continues to have confidence in Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, suggesting a decision on whether he wants Shinseki to stay on will await an internal VA audit due by the end of the week.

“He expects to receive a preliminary report very soon and will be very interested in the results,” Carney said.

A new report by the agency’s watchdog finding a “systemic” problem with VA clinics lying about patient wait times appears to have worsened Shinseki’s position. Carney said Obama was “extremely troubled” by the report, which has sparked growing calls, including among some Democrats, for Shinseki’s removal.

Carney repeated statements made last week by President Obama commending Shinseki’s commitment and his work in areas not related to patient waiting times. But he also stressed Obama’s desire to round up more facts about what has happened at the VA.

Last Tuesday, when asked if Obama was satisfied with the job Shinseki is doing, Carney replied: “Well, he is. He is satisfied. He has confidence in General Shinseki.  But he has made it clear to, as I’ve said in the past, to the General and to others that he expects results as they try to tackle this very difficult issue of the backlog at the VA.”

But the following day Obama offered lukewarm support and but also suggested Shinseki may be held accountable

“As this stage, Rick is committed to solving the problem and working with us to do it,” Obama said. “But I’m also going to be waiting to see what the results of all this review process yields. I don’t yet know how systemic this is.” 

Three Reasons Why Obama Didn’t Dump Shinseki

President Obama’s decision not to fire VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is less mysterious than it seems. Here’s why he’s keeping him on:

  1. Obama is Shinseki, and Shinseki is Obama. Eric Shinseki assumed office the day after Obama did in 2009. For Obama to fire Shinseki at this point is to admit his own inadequacy and to reveal what I assume to be true: that Obama was not paying personal attention to the VA and not cracking the whip.
     
    You see, when the White House, and the president in particular, shows an interest in an agency or an issue, people get very nervous, and what is normally a cumbersome, immovable bureaucracy starts to creak to life.

    If Obama ever met with Shinseki one-on-one or even held a phone call with him, I’d be surprised.

  2. What happens once you fire Shinseki? Well, as the Julie Pace of the Associated Press points out in the video below, you have to replace him.

    And unless Obama replaces him with John McCain, that would mean weeks of heated discussion about the nominee, a heightened focus on the issue, and dramatic Senate hearings – all as we approach Election Day 2014. Not good for Obama and the Democrats.

    But Obama’s executive incompetence is showing. What the White House should do is sack Shinseki now, nominate a replacement next week, and insist Congress hold hearings immediately because of the urgent need to get someone to work on the problems. Then Obama might get the issue behind him well before summer is out.

  3. I think Obama feels bad for Shinseki. I really do. Everyone seems to agree that Shinseki, who had part of his foot blown off in Vietnam and served his country in the army for nearly 40 years, is a patriot and a decent man who cares about veterans. And he has made some progress with some of the VA’s system problems
     
    But caring is not enough. The issue is too big.
     
    Again, Obama does not know how operate as a chief executive. You have to fire people, even good people. There’s not a single major private company in America where Shinseki would be kept on after a fiasco such as this.

    The health of our veterans is more important than Eric Shinseki’s feelings.

Here are a couple of reporters I respect, Associated Press White House reporter Julie Pace and National Journal’s Ron Fournier, himself a former AP White House reporter, discussing Shinseki.

Fournier, who is tough but not prone to hyperbole, calls the White House “pathetic.”

What did (Obama) do? Like he did with a lot of other things – he didn’t pay attention, he didn’t govern. Now he’s holding nobody accountable.

Obama Kinda Holds Someone Accountable for VA Scandal

Typical White House nonsense.

Amid exploding demands for someone to be held accountable for the scandal in which dozens of veterans may have died waiting for care, the top Veterans Administration health official, one Dr. Robert Petzel, resigned today.

Of course, this is the usual Obama White House hedging. A sort of response. You see, Petzel was set to resign anyway. His replacement had already been announced. So it doesn’t seem this is really a response to the outrage that has occurred.

On the other hand, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki released a statement kind of indicating Petzel as being held responsible:

Today, I accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As we know from the Veteran community, most Veterans are satisfied with the quality of their VA health care, but we must do more to improve timely access to that care.

I am committed to strengthening Veterans’ trust and confidence in their VA healthcare system.

I thank Dr. Petzel for his four decades of service to Veterans.

Such meekness. Typical Obama – can’t just take charge and make heads roll. Did Sebelius resign because of the Obamacare rollout? Who knows? Kinda-sorta-maybe.

THESE THINGS MATTER.

Are we going to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons? Kinda. But probably not really. As long as Obama can claim Herr Khamenei has granted us Peace in our Time.

Here’s some video of ABC’s Jonathan Karl trying to get White House Press Secretary Jay Carney to say there’s a problem at the VA.