May 16 2014
The Washington Examiner
Even after 40 veterans are dead as a result of mismanagement at a Phoenix VA facility and more whistleblowers are coming forward with allegations of ethical breaches and fraud in VA facilities across the country, Obama still has "complete confidence" in Shinseki.
At the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing Thursday, Shinseki reiterated that he would not resign until the president asked him to do so or until the mission is complete.
But Shinseki's testimony itself revealed failed leadership and apathy towards fixing the systemic issues within the VA.
In the two hours he testified, he dodged nearly every question asked of him. He continued to hide behind the president’s words of confidence and the ongoing inspector general’s investigation.
Shinseki barely acknowledged the problems veterans face today because of the VA. He repeated that veterans receive top-notch health care.
He conveniently couldn’t remember receiving reports on ghost clinics or double booking. He wouldn't acknowledge that there was any evidence of cooking the books, secret wait-lists or gaming the system.
And he also couldn’t name a specific instance of VA employees being held accountable for manipulating numbers.
Such a selective memory from a top-tier government official during testimony shouldn't be tolerated. It speaks to a disgusting pattern in government where leaders care more about themselves rather than the people they are supposed to serve.
Shinseki is a career military officer. He is a retired as four-star general and combat veteran. He served honorably as a military officer.
And that service should have provided enough experience for him to know that as a leader, you must lead by example.
He knows that when something goes wrong in combat and people die as a result — whether it is because of negligence, bad decision-making or faulty leadership — responsibility goes all the way up the chain of command.
Generals have had to retire early or step down because of such missteps. They are held accountable because they are responsible for their department.
That's leadership and accountability. Shinseki shouldn’t be held to a different standard just because he now works at the VA and it was veterans who died.
Obama needs to show that the well-being of veterans is truly a priority for his administration. He needs to stop protecting his inner circle and prove that he will not stand for unchecked mis-management that in some cases has resulted in the death of veterans.
Obama needs to hold Shinseki accountable for the deep systemic problems that he allowed to fester within his department during his tenure.
This will send an important message throughout VA that the status quo of no accountability and unethical mismanagement is over.
Unfortunately, Obama has merely chosen to talk about just how much veterans mean to this nation, rather than demonstrate it.
His lack of resolve to hold Shinseki accountable suggests that the president cares more about his administration’s Image than the health and safety of veterans.
He does not want another scandal during his presidency.
Here's the question we should all be asking: How many more veterans have to die before Obama will make fixing the VA a priority?
With Memorial Day upon us, the Commander-in-Chief should pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice by taking a stance of leadership and calling for Shinseki’s resignation.
It’s time to hear more from this administration than fabricated outrage. Better yet, Shinseki could do the honorable thing and resign.
Amber Barno is a senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum with a focus on national security, foreign policy, and military issues. She is a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot with combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.