BREAKING: Udall First Democratic Senator to Call for Shinseki to Resign

Mark Udall calls for Eric Shinseki to resign

Sen. Mark Udall (D)

Senator Mark Udall today called for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. From the Associated Press:

Udall becomes the first Democratic senator to make such a demand in the ongoing scandal over VA medical care. He made his statement Wednesday on Twitter after the release of an internal report that found the VA systemically delayed care to wounded veterans and manipulated records to cover it up.

The VA's inspector general is investigating 42 VA facilities across the country. It found the average wait time for care at the Phoenix VA hospital was 115 days.

In his tweet Udall said, quote, "In light of IG report & systemic issues" Shinseki should step down.

As the first Democratic Senator to call for Shinseki's resignation, Udall will no doubt be accused of election year grandstanding by Republicans. But Udall's record as an independent voice on the powerful Armed Services Committee makes it much more difficult for critics to go after him here. From leading the way among Democratic Senators on issues such as the NSA spying controversy, Udall has established a pattern of thoughtful oversight on military issues that should only help him in November.

71 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Andrew Carnegie says:

    "Udall's record as an Independent voice"?

    As in voting for the administration 99% of the time in 2013?

    You mean he supports Obama and Steyer, right.

    Oh, that kind of Independent voice

  2. ModeratusModeratus says:

    Gardner Welcomes Udall Announcement

     

    DENVER, CO - Rep. Cory Gardner today thanked Senator Mark Udall for following his lead and requesting the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. 

    “I am pleased that Senator Udall has finally decided to stand up with me on behalf of our nation’s veterans and call for a change in leadership at the VA,” Cory said. “Recent revelations about improper conduct within the department demand immediate action. Now that Senator Udall has joined my call, I am hopeful the President relieves Secretary Shinseki of his post and begins the difficult work of fixing the department’s significant problems.”

    Cory called for the Secretary’s resignation on May 8th in light of the news that falsified records resulted in the deaths of many veterans throughout the country. He is committed to working with anyone willing to solve the mounting issues at the VA and restore the high-quality care our nation’s veterans deserve.  

    • DawnPatrol says:

      Cory Gardner, is a nobody and a whiny, worthless worm — much like you.

      He was nothing but another pipsqueak pile-on GOTP jackass — there was nothing principled or thoughtful whatsoever in his grossly premature demand for Shinseki to resign.

      You amoral asswipes are getting increasingly desperate. It smells.

      • ModeratusModeratus says:

        Do you deny that Gardner called for Shinseki's resignation weeks ago?

        • DavieDavie says:

          Prematurely, because that was the hyperpartisan, hypocritical (let's not fund the VA, let's vote for more O&G subsidies!) thing to do at the time?  Nope, I won't denythat, or that Gardner is a bought and paid for Koch lobbyiest as well.

          • It is still premature, and I'll go out on a limb and say that Udall's call for Shinseki's resignation seems to be a political move and is not based on any evidence that Shinseki was incompetent at his job.

            • DavieDavie says:

              Perhaps — since by definition, our elected representatives are also politicians, and the cabinet secretaries are in politically appointed jobs serving at the pleasure of the President, it's pretty easy to say all calls for resignations of same are political moves.

              However, the consensus is converging that maybe, just maybe, Shinseki's 6 years on the job haven't done much to improve the situation, and perhaps a stronger candidate to give the organization a bit of a shakeup will help.  Sort of like when a corporate board of directors sacks the CEO for not setting or executing the agreed upon strategy successfully.

              • Was said executive given the resources he needed by his board? And given the goals, was enough time allotted to the executive to carry through?

                Given the long term severity of the problem and the continuing influx of clients, I'd say that answer is 'no', and if you haven't read the report I again challenge you to actually read it and tell me what it is that leads you to believe that Shinseki is part of the problem.

              • SSG_Dan says:

                " Shinseki's 6 years on the job haven't done much to improve the situation,"

                REALLY? 

                He finally set standards for a Federal Agency that's the most resistent to change in DC.

                He actually got VBA to more to an electronic disability claims systems, and after opening up the doors to Agent Orange and trauma-related injuries, is on track to end the backlog by 2015 (which is what he said he did.) 

                Veteran homeless is down by 24% and while VA probably won't end it by 2015, the resources available for homeless Vets is so good that the civilian homeless orgs openly admits that they wish they had the same level of support. 

                He took the GI bill from a total clusterf8ck and made it run very smoothly. 

                And, most importantly, after the disaster of 4 different VA Secretaries under Dubya, he has the respect and admiration of VA staff. 

                Being the VA Secretary is like being the Coach of the Oakland Raiders – great talent, but f*cked up owners (Congress & The Prez) who keep messing with the Coach without giving him the resources he wants. 

                • Andrew Carnegie says:

                  "(H)e has the respect and admiration of VA staff"?

                  Keeping a second set of books to hide delays in healthcare is not a sign of respect.

                  • SSG_Dan says:

                    If you even know where the VA hospitals are in Colorado, drag your sorry self into one someday and ask the Vets and staff what they think of Shinseki. 

                     

                  • langelomisteriosolangelomisterioso says:

                    OK AC is that anything like starting a couple wars, which automatically increase the VA's task, and keeping those cost of those wars off the public books? Sounds like Enron-derived accounting to me.But then you've always wantedto privatize everything.

                • DavieDavie says:

                  Dan — Thanks for providing this in-depth info, this is no doubt an area of expertise of yours.

                  My comment only addressed this specific issue of appointment scheduling problems, not a general indictment of Shinseki's full record.

                  Perhaps the culture of the VA, where soldiers are trained to make do with what they've got and perservere in silence despite facing heavy odds, is working against the needed solution?  Since the squeaky wheel gets the attention, it would not have been shameful or seemingly whining, to have these issues of scheduling backlogs, ancient software, etc.  brought to the Congress' attention 6 years ago, rather than suffering in silence.  At least if he had put the issues on record in testimony to Congress, asking for help, even if (when) turned down by the GOP-lead House, it wouldn't have come back on him these several years later.

                  Maybe Shinseki can still do that, but if not, his successor surely must.

                  • SSG_Dan says:

                    The issue is that VA is asking GS5's to do a very hard, very relentless and tecnically complex job that is probably one of the hardest to do in health care. And they're doing it with 30-yr old software. 

                    It's like asking 19-yr old Infantry Privates to be Nuclear Propulsion Techs on a submarine. They're hard-working, determined to try and do a good job, but technically unprepared. 

                    Congress has been told point-blank in 2012 and 2013 this was a critical issue. I don't know why VHA hasn't implemented the software they selected last year, but it  might have something to do with the fact that they don't want to risk bringing down VistA (our electronic records system) while they're being deluged with patients.

          • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

            He was also an early voice on cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $40 billion, eliminating at least 50,000 of the constituents he'd like to represent as Senator from the federal safety net. In any given month, over 900,000 veterans live in homes that rely on SNAP benefits.  Cry me a river – he could care less about veterans unless he's using them as some kind of prop for his campaign. 

      • Andrew Carnegie says:

        That is not a very polite way to refer to your next US Senator.

        Personally, I refer to the current one as Lying Mark Udall, but there is no need to be consistent here.

    • BlueCat says:

      On CPR they said Gardner was glad Udall was following his lead. Nice try Gardner. Even though all the letters, including open ones, that I've seen from individual vets and vets groups this past week have clearly stated the real problem is years of congress refusing to adequately fund veteran services, continuing a grand old tradition of  treating the military like garbage when your through with them going back to ancient Roman times and beyond, I agree Shinseki has to go.

      Long standing problems, mainly due to Repugs screwing vets to feed their rich overlords aside, the particular problem of massive fraud in hiding long wait times should have been looked into a long time ago and the buck stops with Shinseki. I don't recall if I mentioned it here but I concluded over a week ago that Shinseki had to go. So, as usual the assumptions modster makes make modster look like an ass.

      • Andrew Carnegie says:

        When Dem adminstations screw up it because Republicans did not give them enought money to waste.  How much money was needed to build a functioning web site?  Everything is not a function of more money.  Sometimes it is a function of competence.  If they paid the idiot more who outed the CIA station chief, would he have done the job any differently or would we have spent more money and he still would have been outed?

  3. DawnPatrol says:

    Reading comprehension's not your strong suit, is it pinhead?

  4. Reading through the preliminary report, there seems little if anything in it that warrants the Secretary's removal.

  5. I think each and every one of us here should take a step back and read the preliminary report. Then re-read what you posted above, setting aside the personal biases and history, and figure out if you really meant what you said with the facts in hand.

    This diary reads like a hyper-partisan jello wrestling pit turned to words.

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      Agreed, Phoenix.  SSG_Dan gave us more than enough information yesterday for us to hit the 'pause' button until the preliminary report is issued.  I, for one, am not particularly thrilled about the Senators call for resignation. 

      • Well, the preliminary report has been released and it gives us enough to say that we need to wait for the actual report.

        The numbers are bad – but the numbers have been bad since long before Shinseki took over. And it was Shinseki's VA that put out rules on what the individual units could not do to fake their waiting times – rules that the Phoenix unit did not follow.

        And it's Republicans in Congress that have not increased VA spending in line with the number of new veterans using the service thanks to certain wars that they supported but also didn't pay for. It's kind of hard to cut wait list times when the patient load continues to outpace budget increases.

    • SSG_Dan says:

      here – so everyone can read it: 

      http://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-14-02603-178.pdf

      The money quote (in the body of the report, which is why most of the trolls and all of the media missed it) is this: 

      "We are finding that inappropriate scheduling practices are a systemic problem nationwide. We have identified multiple types of scheduling practices not in compliance with VHA policy."

      But this isn't knew, and the fine Congressman from Aurora should know this – because the GAO told him this a year ago, and (among other things) laid the blame on the scheduling software the VA uses:

      http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-372T

      (I use the term "software" charitably. The VA's scheduling software is DOS-based and celebrates it's 30th birthday this month.)

      This older report then is identical to many of points mentioned in this prelim report. But I would like to point out that the usual Repub talking point that "40 veterans died waiting for care" was also not backed up in this report. The VA IG actually shot it down during the Senate testimony when he said Chairman Miller's list had 17 names (not forty) and that NONE of them died related to care. 

      In addition, there's NOTHING in this report that said there was a master secret paper list, which was the key point of Dr Whisteblower #1. It also does not show that Executive Leadership told anyone to falsify records for a bonus (huge Repub talking show point) or (maybe the most important) that ANYONE doing the scheduling was doing it deliberately….the staff seemed quite willing to show the IG inspectors how they were doing scheduling, even though it was beyond wrong.

      Lastly, I'm totallly disappointed that Udall went with the political winds and threw the Secretary under the bus with a "harshly-worded tweet." 
       

      • To provide a minor correction: the preliminary report does note that waitlist times are a factor in compensation. Republicans may be blowing it up by saying Executive Leadership told them to falsify the data in order to get a bonus, rather than saying that policy passed down by Executive Leadership lays out a formula for bonuses that includes waitlist times (one active involvement of leadership, the other perhaps a poor choice in incentive planning), but there is at least the hint of correlation.

      • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

        Right on both counts, SSG. Scheduling problem with clunky software,  and facilities at or over capacity, and good to excellent care once the vet finally accesses it. .

        The software thing is enraging – they have known about this for years. I'm surprised David t8 hasn't weighed in – if ever there was a situation which needed system software redesign from the ground up,  and competitive bidding, this one does.

         The software problem also concretely means that when a veteran's care is "outsourced" to another facility, that the caregivers have no access to the veteran's original records and Dr. recommendations. It's like  the internet hadn't been invented yet.  This is per my own family's experiences. It was fricking insane. The VA would periodically electronically "lose" my ex-husband, even though he they'd had him in care for days at that point. We'd call in, and they'd say they hadn't heard of him. We usually had to call in to his floor to get an acknowledgement that they even knew who and where he was.

        Complex problem:

        • years of unnecessary wars,
        • veterans surviving what would have killed them in other wars,  
        • an old-fashioned bureaucracy, resistant to change
        • chickenhawk politicians who give lip service to "supporting the troops", but vote against appropriating money for it.

        The other thing that's happening now is that the right wing has a new set of talking points for a month or so- calls to "privatize the VA" show that they smell the chance to take down the largest government public health system in the country. 

        We can't let that happen. I don't think Shinsecki's head rolling will help at all. 

         

        • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

          Now that you mention it, I haven't seen anything of David in a while. Did I just miss him or has he abandoned us because we lack adequate appreciation for Euro-pop porn?

        • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

          I did some channel-surfing last night, watching the exploding heads on both sides of the aisle; typical, useless, inside-the-bubble blather.  I wanted to throw shoes at both Chuck Todd and O'Reilly…there was no daylight between the two.  Every one (both sides, appears to be trying to "out-Shenseki" themselves).  SSG_Dan has given us more than enough info to hit 'pause'.  We have bad actors in 17 of the some 2,600 medical facilities across the US – a system that handles 85 million appointments every year – a percentage that could likely be applied to about any public or private operation.  Has everyone developed amnesia over Rick Scott? 

      • BlueCat says:

        "We are finding that inappropriate scheduling practices are a systemic problem nationwide. We have identified multiple types of scheduling practices not in compliance with VHA policy." - See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/58502/breaking-udall-first-democratic-senator-to-call-for-shinseki-to-resign#sthash.kNMMBPYb.dpuf

        Sorry but if it's nothing new then Shinseki, like everyone before him, should have been aware of it, aggressively investigated it and taken some action to address it. Manufacturing phony records to misrepresent performance is something that could and should have been rooted out. While Shinseki is, no doubt, no more or less responsible for the failure of effective oversight than others have been over decades and while the larger funding issues are the responsibility of congress and out of his control, I really don't see how this ends with anything other than his resignation, regardless of who is or isn't calling for it and what motives are involved. That's the way these things work. If he doesn't offer his resignation in the not very distant future and if it isn't accepted, I'll be very, very, surprised.

      • exlurker19 says:

        Been missing you, SSG!!!  Agree the problems with the VA start with underfunding which is not under control by the secretary.  The motto for veterans:  Do more with less and less and less and. . . .

        • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

          My son is a veteran,who has nothing but praise for the care he receives at the local VA hospital here in Grand Junction. As a coincidence, my son-in-law, just went to work there as a doctor. So far he gives it high marks from a physicians' point of view.

          • BlueCat says:

            We also have a friend, a senior with ongoing health issues due to a stroke he suffered years ago, who is very happy with the care he receives there. Maybe other VA hospitals' problems are aggravated by the numbers seeking care with more problems in more densely populated areas with a greater volume of vets?

            In any case the specific problem of falsification is a separate issue and a practice for which there is no excuse and a readily available solution, unlike problems involving insufficient funding, lack of a sufficient number of primary care doctors in the system, systemic inefficiencies,etc. It could and should have been stopped and those responsible fired and possibly prosecuted. 

            Purposefully hiding a problem via false paper work and other clearly unethical and probably illegal practices actively works against any possibility of solving that problem. If the paper work says, basically "What problem?  We're doing fine", then there's no reason to put any effort into a solution, a non-problem not requiring any solution. 

            Those at the top are responsible for oversight of those at lower levels. Shinseki is where the buck stops and his response has hardly seemed vigorous or urgent. Whether this is a matter of substance or style, confidence in his ability to be the man in charge of the solution seeking has been seriously damaged.  I agree with Udall's assessment that he has to go.

            • I think the solution depends on the IG's report on the problem.

              This could be falsification, or it could be a crappy and near-terminally outdated software stack, or…

              I lean toward this being a complex mix of problems – intentional, process, and tools. I think Shinseki will have to resign if he hasn't taken steps to resolve known issues, but I think he'll look better if some of the items that come up are things that Shinseki and his team have already started to address.

              • BlueCat says:

                The case for falsification seems pretty strong but, as you say, we'll see. In any case it's a similar situation to NBA coaches. A team's failure may not be their fault but they often have to go to signal to the players and fans that a new direction is being taken with fresh leadership.

                • BlueCat says:

                  By the way, now NM Senator Tom Udall, a good deal more progressive than cousin Mark, is joining those calling for Shinseki's resignation. 

                  • Andrew Carnegie says:

                    Polling must have been released.

                    If they are up for re-election they will be calling for his resignation.

                    Need to pretend they are independent and not the suckups we know them to be.

                  • BlueCat says:

                    ummm.. Tom Udall doesn't have to call for Shinseki's resignation out of anything close to desperation. This from PPP in March. For those who believe PPP leans left, go ahead, subtract some points.  Cousin Tom can afford to do what he thinks is right. 

                    Tom Udall was elected by 22 points in 2008, and he starts out with leads in the 20-22 point range against both of his potential GOP opponents for this fall. He's up 53/33 on Allen Weh, and 55/33 on David Clements. Udall sports a 52/33 approval rating, which puts him in the 80th percentile for popularity of all the Senators we've polled on nationally. His large leads are a product of mostly holding onto the Democratic base while leading by double digits with independents and also getting around 20% of the Republican vote across party lines.

          • HarleyHarley says:

            I have a friend who lives in Central Missouri–and he loves the V.A. hospital in Columbia, MO. 

            Of course, it helps that it is virtually across the street from the University of Missouri hospital and the doctors, interns, and nursing staff circulate between both hospitals.

        • langelomisteriosolangelomisterioso says:

          I
           think most wingnuts simply transferred one of the mottos from Asia to the VA, We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”

          Except my experience as a veteran is that VA employees are far frombeing unwilling, and most vets are not ungrateful.If there's an unwilling or ungrateful element it's the wingers who refuse to fund the organization to the level necessary to meet their objectives.

  6. SSG_Dan says:

    Let's try and explain something to the chickenhawks who know jack sh&t about the VA…..

    "First, lost in the current rancor about the VA is the recognition that the VA healthcare system has consistently out-performed the non-VA/private sector in quality of care and patient safety. In response to criticism in the 1990s about its quality of care, the VA initiated a major reengineering effort, whose principal components included better use of information technology, measurement and reporting of performance, and integration of services. In this respect, the VA system was far ahead of a US healthcare system that was yet to embrace information technology and in the nascent stages of performance measurement. By 2000, patients in the VA system were more likely than those treated in the non-VA/private sector to receive better care for a wide range of indicators from cancer screening to diabetes treatment to inpatient care. And this trend has continued."

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/harlankrumholz/2014/05/23/3-things-to-know-before-you-rush-to-judgment-about-va-health-system/

    (note Right-wing Business-y website cited.) 

    Second quote ( and really important to all the Repub trolls hooting and shrieking that the VA should be privatized) 

    Second, the VA healthcare system has been a model for accountability. The issue of wait times exists because the VA decided to measure it. The VA has been an early adopter of electronic records and accountability measurement. It is not proper to evaluate the VA in isolation. For example, with respect to wait times – any idea how that compares to the non-VA/private sector?
     

     

    • In my experience, wait times at private sector facilities – except for specialist service – are nowhere near as bad as what is being reported at various VA centers around the country.

      How many of these delays are due to the requirements of entering the VA system I don't know, though – it seems like the majority of those listed in the report are new to the system. The private sector doesn't really have a comparable "feature".

      One thing seems certain from the report: whatever is going on at these centers isn't "right". There is something still broken about the system.

      • SSG_Dan says:

        Actually…..the wait for an appointment for a doctor as a new patient in Denver in 28 days. 

        http://www.merritthawkins.com/…/Surveys/mha2014waitsurvPDF.pdf

        the wait for same appointment at the Denver VA is 34 days. So…really not that different, but (again) compared to what? I asked HealthOne for their numbers, and they don't even track it, much less want to share it. 

  7. Sunmusing says:

    The problem lies with the gop/baggers who cut funding…

  8. DavieDavie says:

    Here's a pretty good profile of Shinseki from Politico:

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/shinsekis-just-not-a-guy-who-quits-107220.html?hp=t1#.U4euFxAVfAl

    He's tough, smart and determined, and not a politician.

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