Rick Scott, Florida Congressmen Aim at Sinking Eric Shinseki at VA
Around the State
On Wednesday, insisting the federal VA department was “stonewalling” efforts from the state government, Gov. Rick Scott announced he would launch a lawsuit to ensure Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) can inspect VA hospitals across the Sunshine State.
“As the chief health policy and planning entity for the state that licenses, inspects, and investigates consumer complaints, AHCA should be allowed access to federal VA hospitals to inspect their processes and their facilities,” Scott said on Wednesday.
“On seven separate occasions at six federal VA hospitals, however, state inspectors have been blocked by federal officials from carrying out their mission of ensuring facilities in Florida meet the health-care needs of our veterans. I have asked AHCA to sue the federal Veterans Affairs agency to shine a light on their activities and protect the lives of our heroes who have earned nothing short of access to the best care possible.
“With 1.5 million veterans that call Florida home, we’re committed to being the most veteran-friendly state in the nation – and reports of deaths, neglect, poor conditions and a secret waiting list in federal VA hospitals in Florida are unacceptable,” Scott added.
Last week, Scott called for Shinseki to resign. The governor renewed his efforts on Wednesday.
“To date, Sec. Shinseki has refused to step down, our inspectors continue to be turned away, and none of the information we’ve asked for has been provided,” Scott said. “Transparency and accountability are critical to supporting our veterans, and this suit will fight the federal VA’s continued practice of stonewalling our inspectors.”
Scott is not alone in demanding Shinseki’s resignation. Five Republican congressmen from Florida -- Rich Nugent, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dennis Ross, Steve Southerland and Ted Yoho -- sent a letter to U.S. Veterans Affairs Sec. Eric Shinseki at the end of last week, urging him to resign. Shinseki is under fire as reports emerge about secret wait lists at VA medical centers across the nation.
“Like many Americans, I’ve been infuriated by news reports alleging that veterans died while hidden away on secret waiting lists,” said Southerland on Friday. “To restore the trust of America’s heroes, the people who did this must be held responsible and it better happen now. Accountability starts at the top. That’s why I’ve sent a letter to Sec. Shinseki demanding his resignation. If the secretary refuses to resign, then I expect President Obama to show the leadership our veterans deserve and replace Sec. Shinseki with someone who will clean this mess up.”
After the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general released a report about the waiting lists on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, called for Shinseki to resign.
“Today the inspector general confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt what was becoming more obvious by the day: wait time schemes and data manipulation are systemic throughout VA and are putting veterans at risk in Phoenix and across the country,” Miller said on Wednesday. “ Right now, there are two things that need to happen. Attorney General Eric Holder should launch a criminal investigation into VA’s widespread scheduling corruption and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign immediately.
"Shinseki is a good man who has served his country honorably," Miller continued, "but he has failed to get VA’s health care system in order despite repeated and frequent warnings from Congress, the Government Accountability Office and the IG. What’s worse, to this day, Shinseki – in both word and deed – appears completely oblivious to the severity of the health care challenges facing the department. VA needs a leader who will take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability. Sec. Shinseki has proven time and again he is not that leader. That’s why it’s time for him to go.”
A new poll shows the Florida Republicans have the wind behind their back as a majority of voters see the VA department in a negative light and want Shinseki to resign.
A poll from Rasmussen Reports released Wednesday finds 62 percent of likely voters view the VA department unfavorably and only 26 percent view it as favorable. The same percentage -- 62 percent -- believe President Barack Obama and his top aides were aware of the problems at VA before the news broke. Only 27 percent want Shinseki to stay while 42 percent say he should resign.
The poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken from May 25-26 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.