Shinseki: VA Has 'Systemic' Problems

He moves to fire senior leaders of Phoenix hospital
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2014 8:48 AM CDT
This May 15, 2014 file photo shows Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testifying on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

(Newser) – Eric Shinseki has begun the process to fire the senior leaders of the infamous Phoenix VA medical center, he announced today, as he apologized for his department's lapses. When the crisis broke, Shinseki said he believed the problem was isolated. "I no longer believe that. It is systemic," he said. "I can't explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health care facilities." Shinseki has also ordered that senior VA executives receive no performance bonuses this year, and that patient wait times be deleted from employees' performance evaluations.

That last move is significant, because the inspector general's report cited evaluation reports as a potential motive for sweeping waiting veterans under the rug. "Bonuses are tied directly to the waiting times of the veterans," the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee tells the New York Times, so managers pressured low-level employees to drive figures down. As in his op-ed yesterday, Shinseki didn't sound like a man who was about to step down, despite mounting calls for him to do so. President Obama said in an interview last night that he would have a "serious conversation" with Shinseki today about whether he was the best person for the job, CNN reports. (Read more Eric Shinseki stories.)

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