As a new American Legion member in Colorado, and an Iraq War veteran, I am disappointed in the position the Legion has taken regarding the question of appointment wait times and calling for Sec. Shinseki's resignation. Why is the Legion calling for the secretary’s resignation before VA’s Office of Inspector General investigation in Phoenix has even been completed?
The American Legion did not take this step based solely on the controversy in Phoenix. Our members took the past two years into consideration before making the decision to call for serious change. One of our largest concerns has been the mismanagement of the major construction projects, such as the one in your home state of Colorado. Between that project, and the other 55 major medical lease sites currently authorized, only five are open, 38 are behind schedule, and 14 are delayed three or more years.
The American Legion recognizes that an agency as large as VA will have organizational challenges - our position is that Secretary Shinseki needed to get out in front of these problems and LEAD his organization to fix and correct deficiencies; he has not done so.
Our member’s decision to call for a leadership change at VA was based on a series of well documented systemic failures that include many of the complaints you have read about in the news over the past two years, such as: major construction delays, millions in cost overruns, more than just isolated incidents of preventable deaths, millions of dollars wasted on failed attempts to create electronic medical records, continued shell games with the disability claims backlog and now the appeals backlog, VA’s refusal to be transparent, and continued bonus payments despite severe leadership breakdowns.
The list goes on. Phoenix was only the final straw. How many more veterans have to die while waiting for medical care before something is done?
The American Legion’s call for Shinseki’s resignation is a call to action to reform the VA. We work with thousands of veterans each year. We hear their stories, we work with them to get their benefits approved, we help them get the medical services they need. We are not saying that VA has failed in its mission to care for America’s veterans; we believe that most VA employees are doing excellent work. They just need a leader who will lead them to greater success and will hold responsible executives accountable for their failures.
Louis J. Celli, Jr.
Director, Legislative Division