In response to the resignation of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki on May 30, 2014, Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) Executive Director Homer Townsend released the following statement:
Paralyzed Veterans of America wishes to thank Secretary Shinseki for his years of service, both in the military and as VA Secretary. We credit him for his work in reducing homelessness among veterans, expanding benefits and services for veterans exposed to Agent Orange and for those dealing with post-traumatic stress, and increasing resources for and modernizing the VA disability claims process.
While Paralyzed Veterans has not been calling for the Secretary to resign before the completion of a full investigation into allegations of systemic misconduct, the building crisis and growing calls from both Democrats and Republicans made his resignation inevitable.
Paralyzed Veterans has been deeply troubled by the increasing reports of egregious behavior by VA staff within the health care system. The resignation of Secretary Shinseki will not solve this problem that has many silent fathers. In fact, there is the potential that his resignation will be used, falsely, as a demonstration of tough action taken by the administration. This cannot be the end of VA action, and should not be considered even the beginning of action because Secretary Shinseki’s resignation creates a chasm at the highest level of leadership in a department that is now in search of an identity going forward. Now that an ostensible distraction has been removed, however, we need to focus on the actual problems and solutions.
“I believe Secretary Shinseki was committed to the VA mission and we applaud his efforts. Paralyzed Veterans will focus on ensuring that timely and substantive actions are taken to restore trust and faith in the VA health care system,” stated Townsend.
Restoring trust and faith begins with taking real steps to address these ongoing problems, starting with immediate confirmation of a new Under Secretary for Health. The chosen successor must champion a veteran-centric culture of care and restore VA’s health infrastructure to meet the growing demand for care, particularly in the specialized services that cannot be delivered in the private sector. The first priority of the Department of Veterans Affairs is the delivery of timely, quality health care to veterans.
Paralyzed Veterans insists that Congress and the Administration work together and take all steps necessary to strengthen the VA health care system so that it truly meets the needs of our nation’s veterans. Moving forward, Congress must do more than call for the ouster of federal agency and department heads who share its culpability when inadequate resources and underfunding manifest into systemic failures and contribute to creeping diminution of standards. Our lawmakers need to acknowledge their role in and responsibility for ensuring that VA is adequately resourced and positioned to rebuild faith in a system that has not functioned effectively over the past 10 years. Our nation’s veterans deserve better!
Paralyzed Veterans remains the leading voice for veterans who seek care in the VA health care system. We are committed to working with the VA through the transition and with Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson to ensure that our nation’s veterans get the best quality health care and benefits that they have earned and deserve.
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