Congressman Steven Palazzo, (MS-4), released the following statement today after an interim Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General report confirmed that scheduling negligence, mismanagement, and wait times are systemic failures found throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs. The failures have been the cause of delays for veteran care and numerous deaths.
“As a veteran and as an American, I am saddened and angered by these reports,” Palazzo stated. “It is clear we need to clean house at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and I believe Secretary Shinseki should be the first to step aside. Where I come from, if you can’t produce results, then it’s time for someone else to take the reins.”
Palazzo was a cosponsor of the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014, which he voted to support in the House last week. Although that measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 390-33, the Senate has refused to take it up. The bill would make it easier to fire, demote and hold senior Veterans Affairs officials accountable. To date, no one in the Department of Veteran Affairs has been fired over the falsifying of medical records. Robert Petzel, the Veteran Affairs Undersecretary for Health, has resigned but was already scheduled to retire later this year.
At a House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing in November 2013, Palazzo raised concerns about the VA’s failure to address systemic flaws in leadership as he condemned reports of inadequate care at the Jackson Veterans Affairs Medical Center (V.A.M.C.). Despite the fact that those incidents resulted in the death of patients, evidence showed those in charge were transferred to different facilities instead of being fired. Palazzo said the facility, named after Mississippian and famous veteran advocate G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, is “not in keeping with his legacy of service.”
“It just sounds like the good old boy network,” Palazzo stated. “You know you’re either transferred, or you resign and you become a consultant somewhere within the system. There just seems to be some serious issues with the VA, and I don’t just think it’s Jackson. I think there’s management issues all across the nation, and I hope by bringing attention to this one that we can fix it so no other veterans have to endure the nightmare that they are going through in Jackson. The fact that Mr. Jenkins lost a friend, and thank you for your service as well, you lost a friend, a fellow employee and a veteran because of gross incompetence and people aren’t in jail? I’d like to know everyone that was involved in that. They should have been fired immediately.“