On Friday, two key Obama administration officials resigned: Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
Shinseki has been facing a growing chorus of criticism over the operations of the Veterans Affairs. It’s being reported that he trusted his deputies too much and was isolated at the top from the problems plaguing the agency.
According to the Huffington Post:
In a speech Friday morning to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, prior to the president’s announcement, Shinseki made no mention of the growing furor. But as he concluded, he urged the audience to continue fighting to keep veterans off the streets. “Now is not the time to let up,” he told them. “Let’s get on with it. It is the Lord’s work.”
“I’m honored to have been in this fight for justice with all of you,” he added.
Admirers of Ric Shinseki — and they are legion — are sorrowful but not surprised.
“It may be impossible to manage an organization that’s so huge, if people are willing to cheat the system and hold back information and essentially deceive and lie up the chain and to the secretary, to protect themselves, to meet performance measures so they can get their bonuses,” said Marsha Four, a decorated Vietnam war combat nurse and longtime activist in the veterans community.
The bad news inside the VA — an acute shortage of qualified medical and mental health staff; layers of middle management clogged with aging, overpaid time-servers; a scarcity of funds to modernize VA facilities; endless waitlists for appointments — was not something employes have been rewarded for pointing out to VA headquarters in Washington.
Shinseki’s tenure at the VA is a story of hubris and isolation at the top. He had insisted that any veteran seeking a medical appointment be seen within 14 days. Scheduling clerks found it impossible to meet that requirement, given the shortage of available doctors. But that bad news was systematically stifled by mid-level VA management.”
The Veterans Affairs administration has been having problems for years with many of the issues coming to light pre-dating the Obama administration. In 1995, there was a push to reduce the wait times for new patients to 30 days. And a 2005 VA inspector general’s report detailed a series of violations. But recent revelations pushed the focus on Shinseki and what he knew, and he ultimately took one for the team in announcing his resignation today.
Jay Carney’s resignation as White House Press Secretary was also announced. Carney has been press secretary since January 2011 and was previously Vice President Biden’s communications director. Carney is being replaced by Josh Earnest, who was his deputy.
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