Kinzinger: Shinseki Not Qualified to Run VA Hospital System

Sunday, 25 May 2014 01:23 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is a "great guy," Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger said Sunday, but he's not qualified to run the VA's medical system.

"I think [they should] maybe bring in somebody like a hospital administrator," Kinzinger told CBS chief White House correspondent Major Garrett on Face the Nation. "Just because the general has been in the military doesn't mean he knows how to run the largest hospital organization in the country."

Kinzinger, a veteran who served in Iraq, said the latest scandal, involving deaths after some veterans were put on fake wait lists for care, shows it's time for a major shake up at the VA.

"Everything I hear from this administration, from politicians talking about it...we need to figure out what is going on here," said Kinzinger. "You have veterans waiting for care from the Veterans Administration, [and] General Shinseki has been there for six years, [and] has not been able to get his grip on this."

On Saturday, Shinseki announced that VA facilities are enhancing their clinic capacity to help veterans get care sooner, and in cases where officials cannot increase capacity at VA centers, the agency is "increasing the care we acquire in the community through non-VA care."

Kinzinger applauded Shinseki's move, but noted that it's something lawmakers have been demanding "for a very long time."

"I'm going to celebrate this move by the V.A.," said Kinzinger, "but I'm also going to say, what took so long? This is not a new issue in terms of the backlog, and it's not a new issue in terms of the fact that now secret waiting lists [have been] created — which is whole other level of incompetency to the level of criminals."

But still, Kinzinger said that creating fake waiting lists to make numbers look better is "criminal negligence."

"I'm not a lawyer. I'm proud of that," he said. "But at the same time, if you have somebody that created a fake waiting list in order to make their numbers look better, [they are] more interested in protecting their bonuses and job than in protecting those that have protected us, frankly I think that is criminal negligence."

When the talk was just about having a backlog, that was incompetence, he said. "But when it came to people have created fake waiting lists and veterans have died, I think that goes to the level of criminality," Kinzinger said.

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