Local veterans, politicians respond to Shinseki resignation

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned Friday amid widespread troubles in the VA health care system. But will Shinseki`s resignation lead to positive changes at the VA?

The VA Medical Center John Cochran Division on North Grand in St Louis is one of the facilities accused of making veterans wait as long as a month or more to get mental health treatment. Veterans there say that don’t seem to think that a change at the top will lead to much of a change locally.

“They don’t care. And I hate to say that, but they just don’t care,” says Mark Vandiver.

To say Desert Storm veteran Mark Vandiver takes a dim view of the VA is an understatement. Vandiver says when he sought treatment for PTSD at Cochran Hospital back in the 1990s, it took three months to get an appointment and then another half a day sitting in the waiting room to finally see a doctor.

He does not think a new VA administrator is likely to change that.

“I think it is going to be the flavor of the month. It will be one of those deals where it will probably be the next two to four weeks…It will be in the limelight but then everything will go back to the way it was before unfortunately.”

Debbi Vincent says, “Unless there are some major changes made down in the trenches things won’t get any better.”

Vincent is a retired Air Force medic who says contrary to the experiences of some other veterans, she says her recent treatments at Cochran for PTSD as well as breast cancer have been scheduled quickly and that the care was has been very good. But she also thinks a new administrator could be of some benefit if they have the right kind of credentials.

“There are people who have been in the military who have CEO type jobs and they are hospital administrators. And I think if they choose a hospital administrator they can get the job done.”

We reached out to the local media contacts for the VA but received no response.

Reaction to Shinseki’s resignation is coming from others as well.

Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) released the following statement which said in part:

“The Obama Administration has created a culture of failure. This failure of basic governance has permeated throughout all of our federal agencies, resulting in unelected bureaucrats putting their own interests above the American people. Secretary Shinseki resigned today not because President Obama required it, but because millions of outraged veterans and Americans demanded it. While I commend Eric Shinseki’s service to our country, the atrocities unfolding at the VA demand new management and leadership.”

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, (D-MO) realeased the following statement:  “This was the right decision—General Shinseki served our country honorably for decades, but we can’t afford to be distracted from the urgent work fixing these systemic issues. I expect the VA’s new leadership to implement all recommendations from the Inspector General, to fire anyone else found to have cooked the books on wait-times, and to continue recovering the bonuses and raises paid to those fraudsters with taxpayer dollars.”

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)  also released a statement. It read:

“I’ve long said these serious and systemic problems at the VA were never about one individual – and it will not be fixed until the president steps forward to take action and fix this failure on behalf of Americas’ heroes. President Obama must show leadership and give our veterans the care they deserve.”