Shinseki’s gone, now what?

After the uproar over the Veterans Administration issues, Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned this past week.  Now that he’s gone, what comes next?

I don’t know everything about the VA or the insides to the problems there.  However, it seems that the problems that plague the VA are systemic in nature, and removing the head of the agency does nothing to change that.  Our government is designed to be deliberate and slow to do things.  Every 4 or 8 years, we have new heads of agencies, departments, and cabinets that are put in place by whatever administration takes over in the White House.  I don’t recall very few holdovers, such as Robert Gates, from different administrations or from different parties taking control.

How can an agency, group, or any type of organization function with that kind of constant changeover at the top of the chain?  I don’t personally blame Sec. Shinseki for the problems at the VA any more than I blame his predecessor.  The problems don’t appear to have originated from orders received from the top offices, but I’m hoping any investigation will determine whether or not that’s what really happened.  For any group to function well, there has to be structure and continuity.  Government agencies are not set up for that based on our political cycle, so I don’t understand why anyone would act surprised at any government inefficiency found.

Once again, Republicans have caused enough of an outrage that they’ve claimed a victim of Obama’s administration.  Now that Shinseki is gone, what are Republicans going to do to remedy the situation within the structure of the VA?  What are Democrats going to offer as a means of repairing the problems that have long plagued the VA?

Some people feign outrage as though this stuff started in the last 5 years, but the VA has long been plagued with issues.  Does Walter Reed ring a bell?  You can do a Google search for Inspector General reports on the VA for any given year and read reports on issues that plague the system.  It doesn’t matter which president or party was in control of the White House, the VA has continuously had issues that have remained unaddressed.  Every few years, the reports are bad enough that there’s an episode or two of public outrage, but once that outrage dies down, the problems still remain.

Given the additional patients that have come because of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, I don’t foresee any relief for problems in the near future either.  I don’t see how anything short of completely regrouping the agency and doing away with the change of control every 4 to 8 years will make any long-term positive change for this or any other government agency.  Some have said the problem is systemic, and indeed it is.  When politics and politicians have more control over things, they usually end up in a big messy pile.  I don’t think any DC politician will make the bold step to remove themselves from the issues, so unfortunately, Secretary Shinseki resigning does nothing but add fuel to an already blazing inferno.  We’re basically adding to the problem by calling for resignations as the constant changeover is part of the problem itself.

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2 thoughts on “Shinseki’s gone, now what?

  1. I’ll admit that I don’t know all the ins and outs of this but from what I do know, both in reports and anecdotally, this has been many years in the makings. Somebody has to take the fall when the shit hits the fan, though, so Shinseki being gone comes as no surprise.

    All the entrenched people, from Number 2 on down, are likely still there and that’s where any real change has to come. If you just change the top person, not much is likely to change.

    You can’t really change things in mid-stream but I’d like to see the VA, going forward, be limited to dealing with things that are actually service related and not just because somebody is a veteran. I think it’s trying to do more than it was intended to do. You need to honor the deal you’ve made with past and current people but that doesn’t mean things can’t change, for the future people.

    As a for instance, my Daddy is a WWII veteran. For years people have tried to get him to go the VA (he is eligible) but he refuses to do so because he says that’s for combat guys and he isn’t one of them.

    As for VA care, I’ve heard things that pretty well run the gamut from people I know personally, from horror stories to people who have nothing but glowing praise for the VA. That’s not really so different than private sector health care, when you think about it.

    Like most of our problems, this one is another conundrum with no easy solution.

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    • All the entrenched people, from Number 2 on down, are likely still there and that’s where any real change has to come. If you just change the top person, not much is likely to change.

      That’s my viewpoint in a nutshell. We’ve gone through countless secretaries, yet the problems remain. Seems like there should be a bit of change below the #1 position.

      A tip of the hat to your dad. I had an uncle who was a Marine in Vietnam who was the same way. He never used any of his VA benefits or took any percentage of disability.

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