Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Untouchable Eric Shinseki?

Eric Shinseki’s tenure as Secretary of Veterans Affairs has been plagued with one scandal after another.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Shinseki's Limited Hang Out

The first scandal was in the fall of 2009 when many veterans were not receiving their fall tuition checks.  Remember that scandal? 

The VA insisted publicly that the problem was with the academic institution and/or the veteran. 

That wasn’t the problem.

That was a lie.

And the VA knowingly lied.

Shortly after Shinseki was made VA Secretary, he was informed that VA’s own studies showed that the rollout of the new GI Bill was not going to go smoothly.  Shinseki then hired an outside consultant who told him the same thing.

At this point, Shinseki should have informed Congress.  He did not.  Did he inform the White House?  We don’t know.

But we do know that many veterans were left taking out loans and juggling to stay afloat because of the VA’s inability to deliver.  We know that because Shinseki admitted to it in an October 14, 2009 hearing though the press ignored his comments.

That scandal – which went beyond a screw up to include lying to the public and to Congress – should have been enough to end Shinseki’s tenure as VA Secretary.

It was not.

Since then, other scandals would include his deceit on the VA getting together with DoD to form a seamless transition, electronic record that would follow a service member throughout their time in DoD onto the VA when they left the military.  This would allow for faster claims and make it easier for the veterans to file the claims since the information would already be on the record the VA had.

This was supposed to have been worked out in 2009.

People were led to believe it was.

Last week, Chuck Hagel, Secretary of DoD, gave decidedly lukewarm support for Shinseki when speaking to Charlie Rose (CBS This Morning).  That surprised some people.

It shouldn’t have.

Hagel doesn’t care for Shinseki.

It has to do with the electronic record.

In 2009, Robert Gates was Secretary of Defense.  He and Shinseki agreed to a record.  (The issue with the record is that DoD and VA’s computer systems cannot currently ‘speak’ to one another.  The first issue is deciding whose computer system would be the basis and moving on from there.)  Then Leon Panetta became Secretary of Defense.  Shinseki and Panetta discussed what was already decided.

Nothing was done.

Then Hagel became Secretary of Defense.

By 2013, Congress has poured a lot of taxpayer money into this issue and they wanted to know where things stood.

He told Congress that the plan hadn’t been implemented yet because of Hagel who was still getting used to his duties and . . .

Hagel hit the roof.

This is why President Barack Obama got involved.  He met with Hagel and Shinseki and supposedly there is now an agreement on whose system to use.

But none of this had anything to do with Hagel.  Gates had agreed years before, then Panetta had agreed.  It should have been implemented under Gates.  But Shinseki has been a roadblock on this issue and repeatedly used the changing of Defense Secretaries as an excuse to avoid moving forward.

When he threw Hagel under the bus, he created his own personal nemesis.

In the latest scandal, the press has documented how various VA centers have been using two lists for appointments.

The first one, the one they enter in the computers and use to justify bonuses and performance appraisals, documents veterans making appointments and receiving them within 14 days.

This list is false.

The real list, the one off book, shows veterans waiting weeks and months for appointments.

This hidden wait is said to be responsible for at least 40 deaths at the Phoenix VA medical center.

It is also what led veteran Barry Coates to stage-four cancer.  As he explained to the House Veterans Affairs Committee April 9th, he did not get timely treatment, his symptoms were ignored, a competent doctor would have ordered tests and work ups but instead he got substandard treatment in his first visit and attempts to schedule follow up appointments were impossible and it was a year after the problem emerged that he finally got the basic test he needed by which point he had stage-four cancer.

Thursday on The Lead With Jake Tapper (CNN), Dana Bashrevealed that Shinseki had boasted that morning that he had not offered to resign.

He really is a stupid man.

What has saved him thus far is this notion that he’s owed something because he served in the military.

He is owed something for that: health care, pension and a few other things.

He is not owed a job, he is not owed a job he fails to perform.

Were Shinseki active duty military and making these mistakes, he’d be disciplined.

But outside the military, there’s this notion that he can’t be disciplined and can’t be fired, that doing so would be an insult to veterans.

Shinseki’s substandard leadership at VA is an insult to veterans.

Democracy is what the US military is supposed to defend.  And democracy is not, “Here’s an idiot who keeps screwing up in his job so let’s keep him in that post.”

The saddest thing about Shinseki last week was his boasting that he hadn’t offered his resignation.  When he was in the military, he knew accountability mattered.  Now that he’s out of it, he thinks he can game the system and cite his (past) military record as an excuse for his current incompetence.

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