Veterans Advocate: VA's Problems Known Since 2007

Friday, 30 May 2014 09:22 AM

By Wanda Carruthers

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Both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs because testimony was given about problems as early as 2007, veterans advocate Paul Rieckhoff said.

Rieckhoff, who is head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, noted a recent inspector general report that criticized VA procedures had an appendix that included testimony about problems going back to 2007. He said information about the issues had been known, but not acted upon.

"Since 2007, there have been IG reports, there have been congressional testimonies. This has been out there. Every warning sign was there, and it was ignored," Rieckhoff told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Friday.

Rieckhoff said the longstanding problems had created the "ultimate dysfunction in Washington," as politicians from both parties engaged in "finger pointing" while "jockeying for a position" on the issue.

"There'll be a pox on all their houses, because they all knew and they're all responsible. And, the oversight function, especially on the Senate side, was completely abdicated. They failed to exercise their oversight function for years," Rieckhoff said.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki had "not proven up to that task" of solving the VA's problems, Rieckhoff said.

The VA's problems won't be solved if Shinseki departs, he said. "We really have to think beyond Shinseki, because we can't just let him be scapegoated. We've got to have to have institutional reform," he said.

Shinseki needs to be replaced with new blood "from our generation," Rieckhoff said.

The veterans advocate said the next secretary should be someone who had fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and "who understands technology, who has a track record of turning around big problems."

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