Fixing the Department of Veteran Affairs mangled health care system and ravaged image is attainable but will require a profound and painful housecleaning — perhaps including mass firings and partially privatizing the agency’s medical arm, several top veterans said Friday.
Political leaders and combat veterans alike hailed the resignation Friday of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki as merely the beginning of a wholesale rebuild of the department.
But following the release Friday of a White House-ordered audit showing that hospital staff imposed unnecessary waits at 64 percent of 216 surveyed VA facilities, that new public face must also swing a heavy hand, Tarantino said.
“Senior leaders at the VA must know that if you lie, if you are lying to your country, if you’re lying to your patients, you’re going to go,” Tarantino said.
Fellow Iraq veteran David Curry, a retired Marine wounded by an improvised explosive device, said indifferent employees infesting the VA’s medical system pose greater problems for frustrated veterans than the department’s top brass.
“It’s time for the Jack Welch approach of firing the bottom 10 percent,” said Curry, 32, referring to the ex-chief of General Electric who endorsed the sweeping terminations of GE’s lowest performers.
“In my interaction with the VA over the years, there were many employees who outright didn’t care, who are there for the paycheck,” Curry said. “Getting rid of them would send a bigger message than just Shinseki.