OP-ED: OUR VETERANS DESERVE BETTER: David Shulkin Must Go
In 2014, Americans were disgusted by scandals in the Veterans Administration (VA), involving wait lists and falsified reports and records. The epicenter of these misdeeds was the Phoenix VA system, but many veterans at other VA centers around the country encountered similar nightmares.
Changes were needed, but change has not come quickly enough. There is still too little accountability, too much incompetency and corruption, and not enough results at the VA. That is why I am requesting that VA Secretary David Shulkin resign.
America’s veterans served with distinction and honor. They — and their families — made sacrifices to protect our freedoms. In return, we promised the great care and benefits. Our veterans depend on those commitments.
Unfortunately, as has been well documented, the United States has fallen woefully short. Not only have we broken our trust with our veterans, we have placed many of them in harm’s way within the broken VA system. Several VA bureaucrats and employees have shamelessly disregarded their obligations to help our veterans, leading to a culture of inefficiency and complacency.
Congress and President Trump realize that major reforms needed to be made and have made some progress. One of the highlights has been the 2017 passage of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which allowed the VA Secretary to fire bad actors at all levels of his department. This legislation has helped, but the culture at the VA has simply not improved enough.
I have too many constituents who still do not receive the care they were promised or the appointments they need for urgent treatment. Claims are taking too long to resolve, and veterans are often left with no indication of when their appeals cases will be heard. Worse still, many veterans have no hope that the care they were promised will ever be the care they will one day receive.
These individual stories may not make the front page of a national newspaper, but they are just as important to establishing a metric for improvement within the VA.
Secretary Shulkin was appointed to ensure that veterans’ needs were prioritized. Unfortunately, Secretary Shulkin has not risen to the task. He has refused to engage with congressional representatives at a level commensurate with the seriousness of the challenges we face. I have lost faith in his ability to lead this department in the right direction.
Moreover, we need a clean start throughout the department. A new VA leader, with a fresh perspective, should be able to identify employees and bureaucrats who represent the status quo throughout the entire system and improve the situation accordingly. Secretary Shulkin may have started this process — with a major boost from Congress — but he has not made adequate progress.
Veterans in our districts deserve assurance that the country they fought for is capable of fulfilling its promises to them. This does not seem possible under Secretary Shulkin. I call on Secretary Shulkin to resign and encourage the swift appointment and confirmation of new leadership that will give the VA the momentum it requires to overcome its systematic failures.