The largest veteran’s group in the country, the American Legion, has called on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to resign after a number of reports showing delayed medical care led to the deaths of patients. The commander of the American Legion said, “It’s a story of poor oversight and failed leadership.” Many other veteran’s groups have praised Shinseki in attempting to cut out ineffectiveness in the VA, so the Legion’s announcement puts it at odds with many other veteran’s groups. The call for his resignation comes a day after information surfaced showing that employees at the VA in Fort Collins, CO were taught how to alter paperwork in order to hide delays in medical care.
The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans service group, called Monday on Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, citing reports of delayed medical care, patient deaths and performance bonuses for officials linked to health care and other management problems.
“It’s a story of poor oversight and failed leadership,” said American Legion Commander Daniel Dellinger, who also hailed the former Army chief of staff’s decorated military record. “This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Dellinger also asked that Shinseki’s top two administrators step down — Robert Petzel, undersecretary of health, and Allison Hickey, undersecretary for benefits.
The organization has 2.4 million members and 14,000 Legion posts worldwide.
The announcement places the American Legion at odds with other major veterans service groups who also have concerns about the VA but are not calling for Shinseki to resign.
Many have praised Shinseki’s efforts to resolve stubborn operational problems that have plagued the agency for decades.
Tom Tarantino, policy director for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, described Shinseki in an interview with The Washington Post last year as a “transformational figure” and called the VA much improved from when Shinseki took office in 2009.
Dellinger’s remarks also contrast with his own organization’s praise of Shinseki a year ago. Then, former American Legion commander James Koutz defended the secretary when the VA’s backlog of pending compensation claims were at an all-time high. Those backlog numbers have come down by 40% since then.
Dellinger, who took office in August, said he remained a strong supporter of Shinseki as recently as a month ago. But he said too many issues are accumulating that are not being resolved.
“The entire system seems to be infected,” Dellinger said.
Among the issues he raised Monday were delays in medical care linked to 23 deaths by the VA and allegedly resulting in 40 patient deaths at a Phoenix VA hospital, according to a retired doctor who worked there. The VA Inspector General’s Office is investigating the Phoenix situation.