The scandal involving the Veterans Affairs’ reported mistreatment of former U.S. soldiers escalated Monday as the American Legion called the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
The American Legion is the nation’s largest advocacy group for veterans.
“As national commander of the nation’s largest veterans service organization, it is with great sadness that I call for the resignations of Secretary Shinseki, Under Secretary of Health Robert Petzel and Under Secretary of Benefits Allison Hickey,” American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger said.
Dellinger, whose delivered his remarks from the group’s headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, added that the VA has demonstrated a track record of “poor oversight and failed leadership,” The Hill reported.
The American Legion’s national commander went on to list a number of scandals that he says have “infected” the VA, a system that’s supposed to help veterans.
Dellinger cited a recent report that alleges a VA in Phoenix has been using “secret list” to cover up the fact that veterans are being forced to wait for weeks for medical attention. One report even suggested at least 40 veterans died as a result of not receiving treatment from the Phoenix VA.
U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle responded angrily to the report, calling for an immediate investigation into the VA.
Another separate report alleges that a VA in Fort Collins, Colorado, falsified records to make it appear as if its doctors were seeing patients within two weeks of appointment as mandated by the VA. The report claims veterans at the Colorado VA were also put on extremely long wait lists.
Dellinger conceded that every system experiences “errors and lapses.” But the VA’s problems go much deeper than that, he said.
“The American Legion expects when such errors and lapses are discovered, that they are dealt with swiftly and that the responsible parties are held accountable,” he said. “This has not happened at the Department of Veterans Affairs. There needs to be a change, and that change needs to occur at the top.”
The last time that the American Legion called for the resignation of a top-ranking government official was in 1941 when it called for then-Labor Secretary Ray Marshall to resign, the Hill reported.
“It’s not something we do lightly. But we do so today because it is our responsibility as advocate for the men and women who have worn this nation’s uniform,” Dellinger said.
Shinseki, who was tapped to head the VA in 2008 by President Barack Obama, has faced pressure to step down since at least 2013 when the conservative non-profit organization Concerned Veterans for America called for his resignation.
Shinseki previously served as chief of staff of the Army from 1993 to 2003.
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