In order for President Obama to fulfill his promise to fix the Department of Veterans Affairs, he has to get rid of Secretary Eric Shinseki, according to former Democratic senator and Vietnam War veteran Bob Kerrey.
Appearing on MSNBC on Wednesday, Kerrey said Shinseki “needs to step aside” at this point and criticized the current standards and operations at the VA and its many hospitals. He suggested that Michelle Obama or Jill Biden would be better suited to address the problem at the VA because they at least “would come at the problem with the right sense of urgency” given their work with veterans.
“Each of these hospitals tend to operate as separate fiefdoms — there’s a terrible culture throughout the VA,” he said, pointing out that staffers and employees rarely suffer any consequences for their malpractice. “The problem is there’s no disincentive when you do lie.”
Kerrey proposed merging the VA with the Department of Defense to provide veterans with health care. He rebuffed Chris Matthews’s suggestion that the current department lacks the necessary funding and resources.
“I don’t think the problem is we’re not spending enough money; I don’t think the problem here is we’re genuinely short people who are willing to go in and take care of the veterans, especially the guys who have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan — I don’t think that’s the problem,” Kerrey said. “I think the problem is the place has just been poorly managed.”
When Matthews expressed concern that Republicans would use the VA’s mismanagement as political ammunition against the Obama administration, Kerrey responded that “this happens to be a problem where I agree with them.”