The tragedy that is the VA
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and President Barack Obama are both “mad as hell” to learn about dishonesty at a Phoenix VA hospital that might have cost the lives of dozens of seriously ill veterans — perhaps 40 or more sick patients who had been told they were going to receive treatment but actually were not and instead were placed on secret waiting lists, their names to be crossed off when they died.
It was a curious experience to watch Gen. Shinseki’s testimony to Congress. He was the picture of passive-aggression as he appeared to simmer indignantly over the scandal that is overwhelming the VA, the agency he was supposed to have led for the past five years. He talked as if he were only a passer-by, a tourist perhaps, checking out the Capitol and Congress.
Hard on his heels was the president’s cadaverous chief of staff, Denis McDonough, clearly out on the usual White House spin mission, saying the president was also “madder than hell” and “intends to get to the bottom of this.” One wonders, can we ever believe anything this administration says?
Thanks to reporter Jim McElhatton, writing in The Washington Times, we now know that Obama and Shinseki were warned back in 2008 that the Department of Veterans Affairs was a disaster and that the lives of its patients were endangered. And there’s growing anecdotal evidence that phony waiting lists have been used at VA facilities across the country.
We have a federal government where no one ever seems to be fired for incompetence or misfeasance.
Richard W. Carlson is a former U.S. ambassador to the Seychelles and the former director of the Voice of America.