Legion's Celli: 'Trailblazer' Needed to Fix VA Problems

Monday, 02 Jun 2014 06:15 PM

By Courtney Coren

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Now that Veterans' Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned from his post amid the scandal at VA hospitals across the country, a "trailblazer" is needed to make sure the systemic problems are fixed, says Louis Celli, legislative director for the American Legion.

"We're looking for a trailblazer, we're looking for a lightning rod to come in there and have the type of leadership that subordinates are going to respect and feel comfortable that they can honor with the truth," Celli told J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV on Monday, adding that it needs to be a "joint effort" by the veterans' community, the Obama administration, and Congress.

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Shinseki resigned Friday morning. Before that, he apologized for the reports that VA hospitals across the country were allegedly keeping secret wait lists to make it look like patients were not waiting more than the 14-day required period, when in fact they were sometimes waiting for months.

Forty VA patients in Phoenix, Arizona, allegedly died while waiting to see a doctor at the VA hospital there.

The American Legion was the first organization to ask for Shinseki's resignation after the scandal became public.

Celli explained that Shinseki needed to resign because he lacked the necessary leadership and respect of those who worked at the VA to bring the agency through this scandal.

"Secretary Shinseki himself came out and admitted that he didn't have a full handle on what was going on and attributed that to his subordinates' not giving him the truthful information that he needed in order to make the leadership decisions necessary to save patient lives and to make sure that veterans were well taken care of," the American Legion official said.

"That's not the type of leader that we have faith in," he added. "We have faith in a leader that's able to sniff out those lies, be able to root through that deception."

Celli said Shinseki should have been more aware of what was going on because "it spread across the entire agency, so this is something we expected him to be able to root out."

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