Full Disclosure in VA Scandal is Must: Paul Cook
By Paul Cook
Our nation has a moral responsibility to care for veterans who bear the scars of war in defending our freedoms.
As a combat veteran and United States representative, my primary duty to veterans is to ensure that they receive medical care befitting a person who risked life and limb on the battlefield. However, we must have faith in the leadership of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to carry out this duty.
In light of recent developments, I welcome the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
A recent report by the VA Inspector General indicates that problems discovered at the Phoenix VA Hospital, where as many as 40 people died while waiting for treatment, are not isolated but systemic. If these allegations prove to be accurate, it signifies a shameful chapter in our nation’s treatment of veterans.
This failure demonstrates a culture of disregard and disrespect throughout the VA system and in many VA hospitals nationwide. The falsification of veteran medical records, such as at the Phoenix VA Hospital, is not only disgraceful, it’s a betrayal of our veterans. I’ll do everything in my power to see that a criminal investigation is conducted and VA officials are held accountable.
Shinseki’s failure to eliminate this culture of callousness from taking root at the VA and his unwillingness to take decisive action to remedy this disaster left me with no confidence in his ability to lead the VA. His resignation clears the way for new leadership that can clean house and reform this broken institution. I look forward to working with the new leadership and my fellow members of Congress to implement real reform.
As a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, I’ve taken part in hearings to get to the bottom of this disaster. Again and again, VA officials claim they are under instructions from lawyers not to answer any questions. This is unacceptable. These government officials work for America’s veterans, not for lawyers, and our veterans deserve answers.
The first step to fixing the VA is to end this legal charade and require VA officials to provide a full report of what happened in Phoenix and the steps they are taking to hold people accountable.
To be sure, I don’t mean to implicate every VA hospital, and I believe the overwhelming majority of VA employees want what is best for our veterans. The bureaucratic mismanagement, either in Washington, D.C., or locally, is preventing them from doing their jobs, and it must end. Politicians and political appointees must face their failures with selflessness and honor, just as our veterans faced the enemy on the battlefield.
No veteran should escape the perils of war just to suffer at the hands of our government. It’s un-American, and it’s unacceptable. We can do better, and we must do better. There is no excuse for these failures.
Paul Cook represents the 8th Congressional District.