Yesterday Concerned Veterans for America and The Weekly Standard joined forces to kick off the first Defend & Reform event of a five part breakfast series of live policy forum, to a sold out crowd in Washington DC. This week’s focus was Reforming Veterans Affairs: Preserving Promises to Those Who Serve. Top veterans organization including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America (IAVA), American Legion, and AMVETS participated in discussions, as well as former U.S. Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Honorable Anthony Principi and members of the House and Senate Committee of Veterans Affairs.
This solution-oriented event’s sole purpose was to create an open discussion aimed to fix the bureaucracy and leadership issues that are preventing the Department of Veterans Affairs from operating efficiently. There are immediate concerns, such as the 841,000 claims backlog of veterans waiting on results in order to receive benefits, but there are also larger, more systemic leadership issues that must be addressed.
Too many empty promises have been made. Veterans are suffering due to invalid actions from the very department that was created to support them. The purpose of the VA has gotten lost in the vast sea of bureaucracy. Secretary Shinseki continues to insist that the VA backlog will be cleared by 2015. While meeting this goal would be a success, in reality there is not a clearly defined strategy that will deliver the promised end state.
The VA recently announced that it has eliminated 97% of backlogged claims that were at least two years old. While that is refreshing news and a step in the right direction, that it is all it is: a step in the right direction. There is plenty of work to be done, including holding those responsible for the systemic leadership failure on multiple levels.
Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairmen of the House Committee of Veterans Affairs and speaker at the Reform & Defend event, is critical of Shinseki’s goal of the backlog will be eliminated by 2015, based on current patterns at the VA. Miller believes that Shinseki’s goal is unattainable without presidential leadership and called on President Obama to get involved, stating the problem will only be resolved if leadership “at the very very top” steps in. He goes on to say that even if they are successful at their goal, “if the leadership processes aren’t changed, we’re going to have a backlog again.”
And he’s right. Obama needs to acknowledge that the Department of Veterans Affairs is failing its mission in more ways than one. Obama has continually pledged to help and support veterans long after they return from war. It is time to come through on that promise and demand accountability out of Mr. Shinseki and the entire department.
Concerned Veterans for America has called for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation for his lack of accountability and inability to fix the claims backlog. He has had the time, the funding, and the opportunity to make necessary changes, but has failed to do so.
Enough is enough. It’s time to clean house at the VA. New leadership is the first step of many needed to bring a fresh perspective and problem-solving solutions required to overcome this challenge. Our veterans deserve better than to continually suffer the consequences of a failed bureaucracy.
Click the link below to RSVP for the next Concerned Veterans for America event on July 11, 2013: Defend & Reform: The Need For Spending Reform: http://concernedveteransforamerica.org/advancereform/register/
Also published at: http://www.examiner.com/article/our-veterans-deserve-better
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