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Sunday, October 23, 2016

WASHINGTON — If you want a prime example of what’s wrong with our politics, study the response to the veterans’ health care scandal. You would think from the coverage that the only issue that mattered to politicians was whether Gen. Eric Shinseki should be fired.

Shinseki is a true patriot, and his resignation as Veterans Affairs secretary on Friday calls Congress’ bluff. He played his part in a Washington sacrificial ritual. Will the politicians now be honorable enough to account for their own mistakes?

Thanks to Shinseki’s latest selfless act for his country, you can at least hope that we will move on to the underlying questions here, to wit: Why was the shortage of primary care doctors in the VA system not highlighted much earlier? Why did it take a scandal to make us face up to the vast increase in the number of veterans who need medical attention? And why don’t we think enough about how abstract budget numbers connect to the missions we’re asking government agencies to carry out?

It’s an election year, so it’s not surprising that the Republicans are using the vets scandal against President Obama and the Democrats, though there is a certain shamelessness about the ads they’ve been running, given the failures of the previous administration.

Shinseki and Obama might have averted this by pushing Congress much harder, much earlier to give the agency the tools it needed to do right by vets. And as a general matter, I wish Obama spent more time than he has on fixing government and improving administration. Progressives rightly assert that active, competent government can make things better — which means they need to place a high priority on making it work better. This would include, as The Washington Post editorialized, a serious engagement with civil service reform.

It’s also fair to ask why Shinseki did not move faster elsewhere, notably on what the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) called the department’s “egregious failure to process the claims of our veterans” in a timely and effective way. (For what it’s worth, I raised this concern in a column in November 2012.)

  • Lynda Groom

    I willl be holding my breath for our do-nothing Congress to step up and actually follow up on their weak over-sight of the agency. There is plenty of blame to pass around and when they man-up and accept their share the process of healing just might begin. Again, I won’t be holding my breath.

    • Dominick Vila

      What the Grand Inquisitors did not realize is that by making Shinseki the scapegoat for a problem that has existed for several decades, and solving it is not going to happen overnight, they assumed responsibility for, at least, offering viable and expeditious solutions. If a person accuses someone else of ineptitude, it must be because they know what needs to be done and how to solve a problem quickly. I wonder why they didn’t solve the VA problem when they controlled the WH nd both chambers of Congress. I am not holding my breath.

  • Daniel Jones

    I will NOT be holding my breath.

    The Lock grid will do nothing, mean nothing, and spend a great many words and reams of paper to say nothing.

    The only thing that want from the VA is less patients living to make messy claims, and they would have left Shinseki in peace if he hadn’t allowed the claims to be made.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Congress? Brave? Last time I saw that many cowards assembled in one place was in Congress when VP Cheney scowled at them!

  • howa4x

    Maybe Republicans will take ownership o the fact that they cut funding for the VA in their budgets. Very patrotic

    • Annemb

      “Saint” Reagan started this when he cut funding from the VA, seniors, etc., didn’t he?

      • Lynda Groom

        Those of us who lived in California while Ronnie was governor understand full well how he handled the mental health care crisis by closing facilities. Short memories still abound within his party.

        • Annemb

          Thanks for your info. I hadn’t know about this one.

  • elw

    Republican will never take responsibility for their cuts in funding or the other games they have played over the last decade in undermining the VA ability to serve our veterans. We know that from past behavior – so I say we do that for them and make sure that it is yelled from every mountain top and tall building that the Republicans have refused to fund the operation, have spent their energy undermining it instead of improving it. Lets shame them into submission – it is the only thing that seems to work with them.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    You will NEVER guess who Senator McCain wants to replace Shinseki…who spent time in the military…A Republican who has NEVER BEEN in the military, a good ole good ole Tom Coburn, R-OK. Is that cornbelt cronyism from GOP bulls or what?

    • Sand_Cat

      The scary part is, Obama might appoint the SOB.

    • johninPCFL

      Coburn is also a doctor, so at least that might bring some sanity to the wait-listing process. But only if Congress also gives him the authority to act. The GOP filibustered a bill that would have given Shinseki the authority to act, so let’s see if they deny one of their own…

      • Lola Johnson

        Coburn’s “doctorness” hasn’t helped anyone so far. He’s too committed to cutting the deficit. No one can do anything as long as there are not enough doctors and nurses to staff primary care clinics for the vets. And Coburn will never agree to more money for them. The onus now is upon the Republicans to pass Bernie Sanders’ bill.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    So let’s see GOP cronyism at its finest..Michael Brown, an accountant from TX and Bush crony who is best remembered for his FEMA position during Hurricane Katrina, Condi Rice, former TX Instruments CEO and “professor” and Alberto Gonzalez, a TX attorney who headed and was forced to resign from the Justice Dept. when he got caught hiring only and mostly only Texans and Republicans for the Justice Department to create “Texas Law.” And we all know how well all of these inept, incapable hot shots were for 8 years.

  • Sand_Cat

    This is a joke, right? Congress be brave? What have you been smoking?

  • ExRadioGuy15

    The answer to the question posed in the title of this article is fairly easy: the Congressional GOP will be their usual cowardly selves and do nothing while spewing more Fascist GOP propaganda blaming everyone but themselves for the problem. Remember: the GOP don’t take responsibility to anything they do, especially if it’s wrong. In fact, nearly everything is President Obama’s “fault”. And, whatever isn’t is the Democrats’ fault….
    Seriously, GOP Progressives and Moderates, who make up two-thirds of the GOP voters: how long must the GOP spew this pathetic and Fascist propaganda before you realize that the Democrats TRULY represent you now and you start voting for those same Democrats? What do the GOP need to say to convince you of those sad truths?!? WTFU, GOP “Progs” & “Mods”…

  • Douglas Johnson

    I spent seven years on a waiting list under Bush only to get an appointment and determination within days of Shinseki being appointed.

  • CPAinNewYork

    I will not hold my breath, because do-nothing Congress isn’t going to do anything. Bastards like Paul Ryan and his ilk only want to reduce the budget for the poor and the middle class.

    The only way to get around these ultra right-wing scumbags is to vote them out of office. There’s the problem. The rednecks and elderly think that the conservatives are their friends. There are no true conservatives in America any more. They’ve been replaced by radical Tea Baggers.

    • bicfj

      Congress is very brave in providing welfare for corporations and banks when they screw up.
      Welfare for veterans and regular people can’t be done because we can’t afford, or any of the other excuses used by our useless Congress.

      • jmprint

        Are you kidding, we need to save that money for the oil companies, they need those grants, just ask Perry in Texas, hand out funds and tax cuts to the oil barons.

  • CPAinNewYork

    Question: Will Congress be as brave as Shinsecki?

    Answer: Are you kidding? Congress is filled with scumbags. Scumbags aren’t brave, that’s one of the reasons they’re called scumbags.

  • Terri Pastorelli

    I’m asking this out of curiosity. Since a major component of the VA disaster is in Arizona, does anyone know if any veterans have contacted John McCain’s office directly to complain or ask him for help? It just seems that it would have been logical for them to do so.

    • disqus_il6KG9d3VM

      Good question Terri. They should be calling him in droves. This is just one more thing wrong with Arizona.

      • Terri Pastorelli

        I wish someone would ask him that question. If it turns out that he was being contacted and he chose to ignore it he should be held as accountable

    • browninghipower

      I have read only one article…and didn’t bookmark it…about many calls to McCain’s from pissed-off vets in AZ who got the bullshit runaround from him or were ignored altogether. And also the bill that was fillibustered in February had a McCain poisoned pill amendment that demanded the bombing of Iran if they continued developing a nuclear weapon. And he gets covered so nicely in the Liberal Media. Fuck that coward.

      • Terri Pastorelli

        I had a feeling that was the case. The veterans that did call his office & were ignored need to make an issue of it. If it was one of my family members I’d have contacted 60 Minutes, 20/20, Anderson Cooper, etc., until someone listened. John McCain was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon blaming everyone but himself & the GOP. This crap has to stop.