While the VA budget has seen increases even in lean times, whether those have been enough to cover the costs of serving Americans who have served in war — including more than a decade in Afghanistan and Iraq — is debatable.
There has been grumbling over the years, but the revelation that a Phoenix, Ariz., VA office was cooking its books like a numbers man hiding from the IRS — records for public consumption that blatantly lied about how quickly veterans were being cared for — has finally brought the issue to a head, particularly the allegation dozens of veterans died while waiting long months to receive medical care.
What we’re hearing now is a lot of pledges to investigate and an increasing chorus for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down or be fired. President Barack Obama on Wednesday had promised to do just that.
“If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period,” Obama said after meeting at the White House with Shinseki and Rob Nabors, Obama’s aide who is reviewing the allegations about the Phoenix VA office.
“When I hear allegations of misconduct, any misconduct, whether it’s allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books, I will not stand for it, not as commander in chief, but also not as an America.”
He also indicated that if the allegations are substantiated, Shinseki will voluntarily leave his post.
While that resignation might be deserved and may satisfy some critics, the issue goes deeper than who is sitting atop the VA food chain. The issue that must be explored both thoroughly and quickly is whether America’s veterans are getting quality care with the shortest waiting times possible.