Photo: NY Legion
The Indianapolis-based American Legion’s national commander is calling for the resignation of three top Department of Veterans Affairs officials.
Commander Dan Dellinger said today Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Under Secretary for Health Robert Petzel and Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey should resign over allegations that failed oversight led to preventable deaths at VA medical facilities.
The tipping point was this week’s revelations that clerks at a VA clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado, had been told to falsify appointment records.
As the Indianapolis Star reports, the American Legion argues dozens of veterans have died because of delays in treatment.
It’s the first time the American Legion, which boasts 2.4 million members, has called for the resignation of a public official in more than 30 years.
“VA leadership has demonstrated its incompetence through preventable deaths of veterans, long wait times for medical care, a benefits claims backlog numbering in excess of 596,000, and the awarding of bonuses to senior executives who have overseen such operations,” Dellinger said.
The call for resignations comes amid reports that dozens of veterans across the nation have died because of screening and treatment delays at the VA.
Dellinger said the group was sending its demand for Shinseki’s resignation to President Obama today.
Dellinger has long been critical of the VA.
He testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs last month on the issue of veteran deaths. [Jump to 17:30 for the start]
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Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana, who is a member of the veterans affairs committee, said she supports Dellinger’s call for resignations.
“There is no excuse of delayed care for the millions of men and women who have fought and defended our country,” Walorski said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it has taken dozens of wrongful deaths due to VA negligence, including 13 in Indiana, for the mismanagement at the VA to get the attention it rightfully deserves. Nowhere else in the country would this lack of accountability and transparency be allowed.”
In addition to the Colorado incident, the VA has recently been criticized for a controversy that has erupted out of a VA facility in Arizona. Whistleblowers say at least 40 veterans died while waiting for treatment.
In response to those allegations, Shinseki issued a statement saying he took the allegations “very seriously.” Here’s part of the statement:
“Providing Veterans the quality care and benefits they have earned through their service is our only mission at the Department of Veterans Affairs. We care deeply for every Veteran we are privileged to serve.
“We believe it is important to allow an independent, objective review to proceed. These allegations, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and if the Inspector General’s investigation substantiates these claims, swift and appropriate action will be taken.
WFYI’s Michelle Johnson contributed to this report.