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article imageOp-Ed: Top VA health official resigns but was it really 'under fire'?

By Karen Graham     May 17, 2014 in Politics
The top official for Veterans health care services resigned Friday, in what is being called the result of the growing scandal over alleged delays in care and falsifying of records at veteran's hospitals.
Veterans Affairs Secretary, Eric Shenseki said he had accepted the resignation of Robert Petzel, the undersecretary for health care, effective immediately on Friday. A department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity said Shinseki had asked for the resignation. The resignation comes one day after both men were frilled by the Veterans Affairs Senate Committee.
The resignation of Dr. Petzel has only added more controversy, critics in Congress pointing to the fact that the doctor was already scheduled to retire. Petzel's retirement was announced in a press release by the VA in September, and on May 1, The White House announced it had nominated Dr. Jeffrey A. Murawsky to the post. Murawsky has been director of Region 12 Veterans Integrated Service Network since 2009.
"Today's announcement from VA regarding Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel's 'resignation' is the pinnacle of disingenuous political doublespeak," Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, said in a statement.
"Petzel was already scheduled to retire in 2014 and President Obama has already announced his intention to nominate Petzel's replacement, so characterizing this as a 'resignation' just doesn't pass the smell test," Miller said. "Desperate to get ahead of a delays-in-care crisis that is growing by the day, yet apparently unwilling to take substantive actions to hold any of its leaders accountable for negligence that harms veterans, VA has resorted to what it does best: splitting semantic hairs to create the illusion of accountability and progress."
The illusion that fast action is being taken by the administration points to the real facts of the story. Nothing constructive has been done so far. Long waits, delays in treatment, and political doublespeak is still the order of the day. The American Legion, which has called for Shenseki's resignation said “This move by VA is not a corrective action, but a continuation of business as usual.”
President Barack Obama, continuing in his role as a "do nothing" leader, allowed the release of a statement saying, "The president has said America has a sacred trust with the men and women who have served our country in uniform, and he is committed to doing all we can to ensure our veterans have access to timely, quality health care."
So far, a lot of time and money has been spent on committees, subcommittees and now, an additional investigation into criminal charges by the Department of Justice, in trying to get to the bottom of the pile of red-tape that was once the Veterans Administration. Many people say, and with some truth, that the VA is so big, and so fat with bureaucratic excess that it's right hand doesn't know what it's left hand is doing.
Reports of long waits for appointments and even longer times being spent waiting for benefit applications to be processed have plagued the VA for years, There have been attempts to shorten the six month backlog, and some whistle blowers allege this is the reason 40 people may have died waiting for appointments at a Phoenix VA hospital.
The VA Inspector General staff investigated the allegations, and an initial review of 17 cases found that none of the deaths appear to have been caused by delays in treatment. But in the past three weeks, 10 new allegations have come to light over wait lists and falsified patient appointments at other VA hospitals.
The VA operates the largest health care system in the United States, with 1,700 VA hospitals, clinics and other facilities. It has over 300,000 employees and serves 6.5 million veterans.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Veterans administration, Health care, Under secretary, Scandal, secret appointment list
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