Amid allegations of fatal treatment delays for veterans at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the American Legion is taking the rare step of calling for the resignation of top VA officials.
Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of the veterans group, is planning to make the announcement at 2 p.m. today at the group’s headquarters in Indianapolis. (note: Josh Hicks of The Washington Post reported the Legion today demanded the resignations of Secretary Shinseki, Under Secretary Hickey, and Under Secretary Petzl.)
It’s the first time the American Legion, which boasts 2.4 million members, has called for a leadership change at the VA in more than 60 years. (note: click to read Legion Commander's Op-Ed Letter)
“Senior VA leadership in Washington has demonstrated its incompetence through a series of incidents at VA medical facilities involving preventable deaths of veterans, long wait-times for medical care and other quality-of-care issues, and the awarding of bonuses to senior executives who have overseen such operations,” the group said in a press release. “As the country’s largest organization of wartime veterans, The American Legion believes that VA is a system worth saving, and that the department has reached a point of crisis nationwide that warrants the removal of VA’s top leadership in Washington.”
The call for resignations comes amid reports that scores of veterans have died because of screening and treatment delays at the VA.
Department officials revealed last month that the deaths of 32 veterans were linked to delayed cancer screenings dating back four years.
More recently, a retired doctor, Sam Foote, alleged that 40 other veterans died because of treatment delays at a VA hospital in Phoenix. VA officials says there’s no evidence to support those claims, but the hospital administrator was placed on leave pending an investigation by the agency’s inspector general.
And today, USA Today reported that a VA investigation at one of its outpatient clinics in Fort Collins, Colorado found that clerks at the Department of Veterans Affairs were instructed last year how to falsify appointment records to make it appear the small staff of doctors was seeing patients within the agency’s goal of 14 days.
In a statement Thursday, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said the agency takes the allegations in Phoenix seriously.
“We believe it is important to allow an independent, objective review to proceed,” he said. “These allegations, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and if the (VA) Inspector General’s investigation substantiates these claims, swift and appropriate action will be taken.”