Columnist calls for Shinseki to step down
Published: March 14, 2013
WASHINGTON — Time’s Joe Klein, a frequent voice on veterans issues, this week called for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign for what he sees as a lack of leadership and focus in the department.
The column, online at the magazine’s web site, takes the former Army general to task for failing to fix the veterans benefits backlog and provide a public rebuttal to a host of other department problems.
From the magazine:
When was the last time you saw Shinseki say or do anything in public? He is universally regarded as an exemplary man. But even his supporters say he's old-school military, stoic, wary of the press. And his detractors, who are legion among the generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, say he lacks the creativity and leadership skills to deal with Veterans Affairs' mind-boggling problems, like the 900,000 unprocessed disability cases.
In any event, he has been in office for four years, and the problems our veterans face are worse than ever – and about to get still worse as the military demobilizes tens of thousands of additional troops in the next few years. It is time for him to step down.
Shinseki has come under frequent public criticism from members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, but most of the other major veterans organizations have praised Shinseki’s work while blaming department failings on bureaucratic malaise.
UPDATE: On Friday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars blasted Klein’s column as unfair and unhelpful.
“Freedom of the press isn’t a license for Joe Klein to twist reality about someone who has volunteered virtually his entire life to serve his country,” said John Hamilton, national commander of the VFW.
“Secretary Shinseki has one of the toughest jobs in America. It is his responsibility to heal, help and care for our wounded, ill and injured veterans from all generations. What he doesn’t need is criticism from those who have little or no understanding of the real issues or challenges facing his department.”
The group’s full statement is available on their web site.
The American Legion also said the Time column went too far.
"We acknowledge there are problems with the backlog, but we're not attacking the secretary for them," said Peter Gaytan, executive director at the Legion. "He has always been engaged and accessible with the VSOs who understand the problem and are working to solve it.
"There isn't a culture of exclusion in the secretary's office."