Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

June 1, 2014

Editorial: Nation needs answers in VA hospital scandal

While the nation honored its war dead on Memorial Day, and nations prepared to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Washington was wringing its hands and playing predictable political games over the Veterans Administration hospital scandal.

That there could even be such a scandal is a disgrace. That those charged with overseeing the system are still wondering how to proceed is worse. That tens of thousands of dedicated VA employees across the country have been tarred by this dishonor is unconscionable.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned Friday. He had to go and the sooner the better. Even if it is eventually proven (as unlikely as that is) that Shinseki didn’t have direct knowledge that patients in a number of VA hospitals had to wait nearly four months for a first appointment, he should have.

At the very least, someone in his chain of command should have known and should have passed that information up the line.

It’s not like Shinseki was new to the job. He was there for President Obama’s entire five-plus years in office. He was a four-star general in the U.S. Army and certainly knew vets who got medical care through the VA.

At the very least, Shinseki should have been aware of a moronic VA policy that called for vets to be seen for a first visit within 14 days.

That’s an unrealistic expectation, yet it was the basis for employee bonuses and raises and led directly to workers “gaming” the system by faking waiting lists while keeping vets in limbo just to earn cash.

That’s terrible management and should have been rooted out long ago. But the details almost don’t matter. What matters here is that people who were drafted into military service or volunteered to go in harm’s way have been treated like serfs or worse. Some vets may have died while waiting to get the medical care that was part of the bargain — you fight, we give you medical care and other help as we can.

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