President-elect Obama has announced his new Secretary of Veterans Affairs and it is Gen. Eric Shinseki. He was severely wounded in Vietnam and spent 11 months in the hospital General Shinseki was the US Army Chief of Staff and was forced to retire by Donald Rumsfeld because he was not acting like part of the team. He dissented vigorously regarding the prosecution of the invasion of Iraq. His resolve cost him his job, and he has since been proven right.
His resolve will be tested again as the Bush Administration filled the VA with hacks, incompetents and apologists. James Nicholson followed the Bush party line right off a cliff. Then, General James Peake became Secretary. General Peake when in uniform, as the US Army Surgeon General, failed to acknowledge, prepare and deal with either Traumatic Brain Injury and mental health issues. As a civilian, he continued the policy as it might expose his incompetence. Hopefully, he will quickly retire from the practice of medicine, his tenure has been a disgrace.
General Shinseki should first resolve to clean-up the VAs administrative mess that fails to screen, admit and treat our wounded warriors. The VA would make Soviet apparatchiks blush with its indifference and ineffeciency. Second, he should immediately demote and fire the entire senior management of VA in mental health and traumatic brain injury. The signature injuries of OIF/OEF can be acknowledged and treated. The very capable staffs of many VA sites can be supplemented with civilian resources to get these service members squared away. The policy of denying benefits based on phony science and mindless research by both the DoD and VA can quickly come to an end. Finally, he must seek to chart an independent path; the DoD has an agenda quite seperate from treating and honoring our warriors.
Hopefully this action will signal to Military Health Systems that it is time to clean its house.