Lanham, Maryland. – AMVETS urges Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki to openly address the valid concerns of America’s veterans and let them know what steps he is taking to fix the troubled VA.
In the shadow of public outcries for Shinseki’s resignation, AMVETS National Executive Director Stewart Hickey says the VA Secretary needs to publicly shed the misperceptions of failed leadership and accountability.
“Removing Secretary Shinseki will not solve the problems,” Hickey said. “He needs to come forward and restore the public’s confidence in the VA, as well as the VA’s Health System and his own credibility. His leadership [within the VA] and the actions being taken to resolve issues are mostly unseen by the public. He needs the tools to effectively lead, manage, and hold his people accountable. The public needs to see this progress.“
AMVETS has pledged its full support for legislation targeting the elimination of the bureaucratic red-tape currently hindering VA leadership’s ability to address systemic weaknesses in department managers. Hickey says the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014, H.R. 4031, is one such “tool.”
Secretary Shinseki’s noticeable absence from publicly addressing key issues is adding to the perception that VA does not care. VA has drawn ample media attention with revelations of a “secret wait list” at the Phoenix VA, recent top VA officials’ questioning the use of the term “Gulf War illness,” and possible deaths of 40 veterans awaiting care. Other than last week’s actions to put three senior officials on administrative leave, Shinseki has been relatively unseen and silent.
Gulf War veterans are particularly exasperated by the lack of support shown to them by the VA.
“I read it, and listen to it every day,” Hickey said. “I hear the stories of veterans suffering and losing hope. They feel they have been abandoned by the VA, abandoned by the very government they served. The perception is that the VA is acting like corporate insurance companies, trying to cut expenses by limiting how many claims are filed.” In 2011 VA reported only 20,069 Gulf War Illness presumptive claims had been approved at the time of VA’s report with a staggering 16,725 that were denied. Compounding things, more than 250,000 Gulf War veterans are suffering from the effects of Gulf War Illness, showing just how difficult it is for an ill Gulf War veteran to have their claim for benefits approved.
“It is extremely disappointing that the VA often appears to be working at cross-purposes with veterans’ interests,” said Diane Zumatto, AMVETS National Legislative Director. “Veterans deserve better, they have sacrificed for our country and are left without the help they deserve from the VA.”
A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s citizens and veterans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organizations in the United States, and includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserves. To learn more visit www.amvets.org.