Despite the 75% increase in congressional funding for veterans health care over the six-year tenure of General Shinseki, the system has continued to struggle with extensive wait times at VA hospitals and health clinics, and a long-standing backlog of disability claims. Veterans have literally died from long waits for basic, necessary tests and essential treatment, such as the shocking and unconscionable deaths attributed to long wait times at the Phoenix VA Hospital.
It’s clear that Gen. Shinseki had to resign as VA Secretary, despite his distinguished military career, after the interim report this week by the VA’s inspector general asserting that “inappropriate scheduling practices” are “a systemic problem nationwide.” The report found that 1,700 vets in Phoenix were victims of apparently rigged lists that concealed their wait times for appointments at the Phoenix VA Hospital. In examining the cases of 226 vets, the VA Inspector General found that the actual wait was 115 days even though the VA claimed they waited an average of 24 days for their first primary care appointment.
The VA health care system is broken. Routine VA health care should be contracted to private providers so that existing VA facilities can be used for urgent care and acute care, and the VA bureaucracy dismantled.
I’m proud of my volunteer, active-duty service in the U.S. Army. Unlike a couple of my opponents, who never put on the uniform of our country or served a day in the military — one of whom tweeted today that the VA is for “wounded soldiers,” thus showing his ignorance* — I’m not seizing on this issue because it’s politically opportunistic. I will always be a proud veteran and I will always look out and care for my fellow veterans under the Soldier’s Creed of “no man left behind.”