Tag Archives: Eric Shinseki

Thank you, Mr. President, for keeping this promise

This red-blooded American veteran wants to thank Donald J. Trump for keeping a campaign promise.

He is going to sign a bill into law that seeks to crack down on those who fail to provide adequate service to military veterans and extends whistleblower protections for those who rat out the violators. The law will give VA officials greater authority to fire failed employees and will, according to CNN, “protect those who uncover wrong doing at the agency.”

Read the CNN.com story here.

The Department of Veterans Affairs was rocked in 2013 and 2014 by reports of veterans dying in Phoenix, Ariz., after they endured interminable delays in getting medical care; the VA worsened it by covering it up. The scandal cost Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki — a retired Army general and former Army chief of staff — his job.

I was among the millions of Americans  horrified by the news and the fallout. Indeed, I happen to have a dog in that fight — as I, too, am a veteran who happens to get excellent care at the Thomas Creek Veterans Medical Center in Amarillo. Then again, I’m fortunate, in that I haven’t gotten seriously ill since signing enrolling in the VA system in 2015.

The bill the president is going to sign into law won bipartisan support in both congressional chambers; the Senate approved it by a unanimous voice vote.

Trump said during the 2016 campaign that the VA was the “most corrupt” agency in the federal government. I think he might have overstated that by a good bit. Still, it doesn’t matter now.

The president vowed to take care of veterans and I appreciate that he’s going to make good on that pledge.

Palin at VA? Say it ain’t so, Donald


I might be getting ahead of myself with this particular concern … but I’ll express it anyway.

Donald J. Trump is said to be considering whether to consider Sarah Palin — yep, that one — for a spot in his Cabinet. She wants to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The one-time half-term Alaska governor wants to lead a huge department roiled in controversy. She wants the president-elect to put her in charge of fixing what is wrong with a massive federal agency charged with caring for millions of American veterans.

I cannot think of a prominent American politician who is more unqualified for this task than Gov. Palin. Lord knows I’ve been critical of some of Trump’s other appointees: Jeff Sessions as attorney general and Betsy DeVos at Education are two of the more awful choices. Then we have the white supremacist Steven Bannon serving as Trump’s chief political adviser/strategist in the White House.

Palin, though, would utterly take the cake.

She is not a veteran. Her claim to fame is her failed bid to become vice president on the 2008 Republican ticket led by U.S. Sen. John McCain (who, frankly, would be a superb candidate for the Department of Veterans Affairs post). She had her stint as a reality TV celebrity, a Fox News contributor and the mother of children who have gotten into scrapes with the law.

She quit the Alaska governorship halfway through her first term, citing the pressures of the job. Good grief, lady! You ain’t seen stress until you’ve tried to repair the Department of Veterans Affairs!

As a veteran myself, I was horrified and personally offended by reports of vets dying while waiting for health care. The former VA secretary, retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, had to quit. The department is still struggling to regain its footing.

The idea of putting Sarah Palin in charge of this project makes me shudder.

The president-elect hasn’t said with absolute certainty that she’s on a short list for VA secretary. I hope he thinks better of it.

As for Palin, my hope is that she recedes into the shadows.

She has no business running the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VA might face a stern test soon


I have shouted my praise to you already about the quality of health care I receive at the Thomas E. Creek Veterans Health Care Center.

Luck and good fortune have been on my side so far. I have enjoyed tremendous health and I feel fairly spry for a 66-year-old red-blooded American male.

My next visit, very soon, might provide a bit of a test for the health care providers at the federal agency’s facility in Amarillo.

I have a sharp pain in one of my legs. I didn’t think much of it until Saturday morning when, while walking through the ‘hood with my bride and Toby the Puppy, I felt something go “pop” on the outside of my right knee.

It … hurt … like … hell!

I managed to gimp my way back home and I put ice and a heating pad on the knee for the rest of the day.

Good thing I had an appointment already scheduled with my health care provider at the VA, a quite competent nurse practitioner who I’ve been seeing since I enrolled at the Creek medical center in 2013.

I’ve always considered this “benefit” to be of the “pre-paid” variety. I am grateful for it beyond measure.

VA: A federal agency that actually works

I also have been horrified and mortified at the scandal that erupted in Phoenix over the care that the VA failed to provide for veterans in need. The tumult cost a fine American, retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, his job as secretary of Veterans Affairs.

I continue to place my faith in the care that our local VA hospital is delivering the goods to veterans who need them. My hope at this moment is that my nurse practitioner will be able to schedule an appointment with an X-ray tech, who’ll take pictures of my leg and tell me why it hurts so damn bad.

Then, my hope is that I’ll be able to get it repaired in a timely fashion.

I’ll report back when I learn more.

Until then, I shall keep the faith.

Yes, Mr. Secretary, words do matter


Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald has just learned that words matter.

They matter a lot.

He recently tossed out a seemingly flippant comment about wait times at veterans medical clinics, comparing them to the wait times at Disneyland.

According to NBC News: “The days to an appointment is really not what we should be measuring. What we should be measuring is the veterans’ satisfaction,” McDonald had told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington on Monday. “When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? What’s important? What’s important is: What’s your satisfaction with the experience?”

OK, Mr. Secretary, let’s not go there.

A lot of veterans take their medical care quite seriously. Indeed, McDonald holds his current job because his predecessor, Eric Shinseki, was forced to resign because of issues relating to wait times and allegations that hospital officials were cooking the records to reflect that the wait times at clinics weren’t as long as had been reported.


McDonald also said: “If I was misunderstood, if I said the wrong thing, I’m glad that I have the opportunity to correct it,” he told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I’m only focused on one thing, and that’s better caring for veterans. That’s my job, that’s why I’m here.”

This veteran accepts your correction, Mr. Secretary.

Just take greater care when discussing these things in public. A lot of veterans are listening carefully.


VA whistleblowers deserve national honor

An editorial in the Arizona Republic honors the men and women who blew the lid off the Department of Veterans Affairs shabby health care policies in Phoenix.

They have been named Arizonans of the Year.

For my money, they ought to be named Americans of the Year.


What did they do to merit national acclaim? Oh, they merely revealed to the nation that veterans were dying because hospital administrators were fabricating wait times that vets were enduring as they sought medical care at the VA hospital in Phoenix. As many as 40 them died while waiting for that care.

The news of this scandalous treatment exploded across the country.

Yes, news of this hideous treatment cost an honorable man his job. Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki, a retired Army general and Vietnam War combat veteran, lost all credibility through his inability to fix the problems that developed on his watch.

As the Arizona Republic editorial noted: “Without the courage of whistle-blowers like (Sam) Foote and (Katherine) Mitchell, the American public would still be under the wholesale delusion that the VA hospital system is run well. We would still believe — erroneously— that the often-troubled VA had turned the corner on providing prompt, quality patient care.”

The impact of this scandal has reached across the country and throughout the enormous VA health care network. The Thomas Creek Veterans Medical Center in Amarillo was not immune from heightened scrutiny as officials sought to ensure that veterans did not fall through the cracks as they had done in Phoenix.

Hey, I’ve got some skin in this game as a veteran who signed up a little more than a year ago with the Amarillo VA system. So I am quite grateful for the attention brought to this disastrous problem by Drs. Foote and Mitchell.

The honor “Arizonans of the Year” somehow doesn’t seem quite fitting enough.


BHO 'ignores' military advice at some risk

Lawrence Korb is far more qualified than I am to discuss the ins and outs of military advice given to presidents of the United States.

He did so during the Reagan administration and he’s now suggesting something quite interesting to the current commander in chief, Barack Obama.

It’s that it’s all right to “ignore” the advice of military leaders at times of international crisis.


Korb understands a fundamental truth about U.S. government. Civilians run the military. It’s written into the Constitution and that’s the way it should be.

It’s interesting to me, though, that Korb cites several examples of presidents ignoring the advice of top military leaders:

* Harry Truman dismissed Gen. Douglas MacArthur after the U.S. military commander popped off and said U.N. forces should take the fight to China.

* Dwight Eisenhower ignored the advice of commanders who wanted the United States to get involved in Vietnam while the French were fighting for their lives at Dien Bien Phu.

* John F. Kennedy said “no” to calls to strike at Cuba during the missile crisis.

What do these presidents have in common? They all were combat veterans.

Barack Obama doesn’t have that kind of background on which to rely. I’m not saying it’s a requirement for the office, but it serves as a cautionary tale for a president who chooses to ignore the advice of individuals who’ve worn their country’s uniform, let alone been to battle.

Sometimes presidents ignore advice at their own risk. Korb writes: “Certainly, there have been instances where presidents had overruled the advice of military leaders, with dire consequences. The most recent examples occurred under President George W. Bush. He not only ignored Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki’s advice that several hundred thousand ground troops would be needed to remove Saddam Hussein and restore order in Iraq after his removal. Not only was Gen. Shinseki ignored, he was publicly derided and undermined by the president and the secretary of defense when they appointed his successor early, even though Shineski still had a year left in his term. Ironically some of the same people now calling on Obama to listen to his generals and keep the door open to having combat ground troops in Iraq did not speak up for Shinseki. Bush also ignored the advice of his military commanders by diverting attention and resources from Afghanistan to Iraq, before the mission of restoring stability in Afghanistan and capturing Osama bin Laden and destroying al-Qaeda was completed.”

The Constitution grants the president the final say in all military matters. That’s as it should be.

Still, the commander in chief should listen carefully to what the brass has to say. They’ve been there. They understand the consequences of war better than most.

Headlines keep changing rapidly

It occurs to me that our collective attention keeps getting diverted from crisis to crisis — and few of us talk openly about the crisis that passes from our view.

* Remember the Syrian civil war? We were going to bomb Syria for using chemical weapons on civilians. Then we backed off. The Russians entered the picture and helped broker a deal to get rid of the weapons.

* A Boeing 777 disappeared en route from Malaysia to China. It apparently crashed somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Search teams from several countries are looking for the wreckage that contains 239 passengers and crew. To date, nothing’s been found.

* Then came Ukraine. The Russians entered the picture there, too. Ukraine ousted its pro-Russian president, who fled to Russia. The Russians essentially annexed Crimea, moved a lot of troops to the Ukraine border, then backed off after the Ukrainians elected a news president who is acceptable to Moscow.

* A Nigerian terrorist group — Boko Haram — kidnapped about 300 girls and is holding them captive somewhere. World opinion erupted and the demands came out for the international community to do all it can to rescue those young women.

* Americans got caught up in the Benghazi story yet again. The House of Representatives formed a select committee to examine the Benghazi attack one more time. Maybe we’ll see the end of this probe. Then again, maybe not until after the 2016 presidential election that’s likely to feature one Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was secretary of state when the U.S. consulate was attacked in September 2012.

* The Veterans Administration took the headlines away from Benghazi with reports of veterans dying while awaiting health care in Arizona. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned and a thorough review is under way to find a cure for what ails the massive federal agency.

* Taliban militants released Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the questions about his release and the terms that brought it about have created the latest headline grabber.

These sequences keep building on themselves. Our attention is riveted on these storied and then it’s diverted from one “crisis of the moment” to the next one.

Is it any wonder why Barack Obama’s hair has gotten so gray?

Hey, what’s happening with Syria these days?

This just in: I'm going to live

Given that I posted a blog item a few days ago about my impending medical appointment at the Thomas Creek Veterans Medical Center in Amarillo, I thought I’d provide a brief — and detail-free — update.

The bottom line: I’m going to live a good bit longer, if everything stays the same for a while.

I mention all this only because of the controversy surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA secretary, Eric Shinseki, has resigned. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wants the FBI to investigate the deaths of those 40 veterans in Phoenix. President Obama has all but said heads likely will roll as the investigation continues. VA medical centers across the country now are under the microscope — and I only can assume that includes the Creek medical center here in Amarillo.

No worries for yours truly. I was in and out in less than an hour. Got the lab work done. Visited with the nurse practitioner, who read me the results of the labs; all of ’em look good.

I was out the door and headed for the house.

Oh, how I hope the Creek center isn’t producing the hideously long wait times discovered at other VA-run hospitals.

So far, barely a year into my VA medical enrollment, I cannot complain one teeny-tiny bit about the care I’ve received.

Let’s hope it stays that way.

Let the FBI join the VA probe

U.S. John Cornyn has it right: It’s time to deploy the Federal Bureau of Investigation in this still-metastasizing scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs.


Cornyn, R-Texas, wants the FBI to begin looking into whether there are criminal charges to be brought against VA staffers complicit in the deaths of veterans waiting too long for health care from an agency charged with caring for them.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has quit. The president of the United States has declared his anger over the treatment of veterans. How about calling your pal, the attorney general, Mr. President, and telling him to order the FBI to look at this matter?

This scandal is huge … and yes, it deserves the “scandal” label while most of the other stuff doesn’t rise to that level of deserved outrage.

Dallas Morning News blogger/editorial writer Mike Hashimoto hits it out of the park with this assertion: “Yes, Shinseki had to go, and there’s a long list of VA administrators at three dozen or more hospitals who should join him. And it was beyond shameful that some of them profited from the scheme in the form of undeserved bonus payments. I’m no legal expert, but doesn’t it seem as if some law was broken here? And, if so, don’t we need a criminal investigation?”

In my mind, yes … absolutely.

GOP 'outraged' over VA mess?

Jon Talton is a former colleague — and current friend — of yours truly.

He writes a blog that is at times biting and always insightful.

His link here discusses the resignation of Eric Shinseki as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, but it contains a single sentence relating to Republican outrage over what’s happened at the VA.


Jon’s point about the GOP’s phony outrage is spot on.

Granted, Shinseki needed to take the fall for what’s happened at the VA health care system. Much of this mess happened on his watch, but not all of it.

Perhaps just as outrageous, though, has been the reaction by congressional Republican leaders over Shinseki’s departure. They’ve said it’s not enough that the VA secretary leave office. They want more heads to roll.

And this is all coming from the same do-nothings who have refused to give financial support to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Let’s remember this. The stingy lawmakers, those who express their undying support for our veterans while refusing to authorize the expenditures needed to give them the help they deserve, now are seeking to channel every shred of blame to the individuals they have hamstrung with their stinginess.

As my pal Talton notes in his blog, “The episode is full of irony and hypocrisy.”