Healthcare Business News

Shinseki's ouster won't take the spotlight off VA issues

By Virgil Dickson
Posted: May 30, 2014 - 7:00 pm ET

The resignation Friday of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki didn't silence voices on Capitol Hill calling for major changes at the VA. But despite that steady drumbeat for change, whether candidates will latch onto VA issues in fall Congressional races is open to question, political pundits said.

“Secretary Shinseki's resignation does not solve the systemic problems that we are seeing at the VA. These problems have been building for years,” Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said in a statement.

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“The widespread and systematic lack of accountability at our VA medical centers is horrifying, and investigations and audits have confirmed that,” said Rep. Ander Crenshaw(R-Fla.) “It's appalling, and we must move forward to ensure that our veterans receive the care that they are due without delay.”

But “it will probably be hard for Republican candidates to tie the VA scandal to any particular race around the country. Some may certainly try, but it will likely still come down to the economy,” said Yevgeniy Feyman, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank.

Dan Holler, communications director for Heritage Action, the advocacy arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, disagreed that Democrats wouldn't suffer politically from the ongoing crisis. “Democrats do run the risk of being linked to the outrageous treatment our veterans have received because the failure of a government-run program is a direct reflection on their ideology.”

Of the numerous media requests Modern Healthcare sent to members of House of Representatives asking if they plan to meet with veterans during next week's recess, only Rep. Phil Roe(R-Tenn.) had indicated he had explicit plans to speak to a group of veterans via a phone call.

President Barack Obama accepted Shinseki's resignation Friday morning after meeting with the former secretary in the oval office. Ultimately, Obama said the decision to leave was Shinseki's. Shinseki felt he would be a distraction to efforts to fix VA problems. He and other senior VA officials have been called to the Hill numerous times for multiple hearings in recent weeks.

“The distractions that (Shinseki) refers to in part are political,” Obama said. “At this stage, what I want is somebody at the VA who is not spending time outside of solving problems for the veterans. I want somebody who's spending every minute of every day figuring out have we called every single veteran that's waiting and have they gotten a schedule.”

Follow Virgil Dickson on Twitter: @MHvdickson

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