Calls for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki have turned from loud to deafening as word of a new scandal involving a Veterans Administration hospital in Albuquerque came across the transom. According to the Daily Beast, the Albuquerque VA is the latest hospital to be accused of maintaining a secret waiting list to cover up delays in treating veterans with serious and life-threatening illnesses.
“The ‘secret wait list’ for patient appointments is being either moved or was destroyed after what happened in Phoenix,” according to a doctor who works at the Albuquerque VA hospital and spoke exclusively with The Daily Beast. “Right now,” the doctor said, “there is an eight-month waiting list for patients to get ultrasounds of their hearts. Some patients have died before they got their studies. It is unknown why they died, some for cardiac reasons, some for other reasons.”
Claims that untreated veterans have died premature deaths have turned a scandal into a full-blown crisis. In the past 24 hours, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Sen. Bob Kerrey have added their names to the growing list of politicians calling for Shinseki to step down. Over two weeks ago, both The American Legion and Concerned Veterans for America called for Shinseki's resignation.
Max Cleland, a former senator, disabled veteran, and the former administrator of the Veterans Affairs Department, defended Shinseki as a "truth teller to power" last week. Cleland also cited the reduction in the rate of homeless veterans and the massive enrollment of 2 million veterans in VA system as signs that Shinseki has been doing good work.
This is neither Shinseki's first scandal nor the first for the beleaguered VA department. Back in 2003, the former general famously bucked assessments of the troop requirements ahead of the ill-fated invasion of Iraq. History proved him right, but Shinseki didn't weather the criticism leveled at him by administration hawks,retiring just four months after his testimony before Congress.
For the VA, this crisis has loud traces of the 2007 Walter Reed VA Hospital controversy, which involved not only delays in veteran care, but also decaying and poorly maintained facilities.