NAVAPD first wishes to acknowledge General Eric Shinseki’s approximately 38 years of active military service to this country, and his efforts during his tenure as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
It is unfortunate that his time in that role has to end in such as environment as the VA now finds itself.
As General Shinseki departs the VA, NAVAPD's greatest concern is that some may see his resignation as the only action necessary to "fix" the veterans’ Health Administration. It is not.
NAVAPD is committed to correction of the bad behaviors of some, and acknowledgement and correction of the many systematic problems that create the conditions that led to backlogs, failures of judgment, and unethical behavior.
This sad chapter in the VHA throws opens the doors to the culture and operations of the VA and the VHA, and allows observation of the many real problems in the way the VHA operates:
- Policies and procedures that slow the ability to respond to patient needs;
- Management practices and principles that make it easier to hide problems than fix them, and failure to adopt managerial "best practices"
- Confusion of quantity-of-care with quality-of-care, and the setting of goals that are more about numbers than outcomes
- The exclusion of physicians, dentists, and other clinical personnel from substantive discussions about what the VHA does and how it does it
- Inefficient and ineffective use of personnel
- Lack of transparency and accountability through all levels of the organization; and
- Inconsistent policies and practices from facility to facility.
This opportunity to find and correct these errors cannot be allowed to pass without learning the lessons and making the changes these lessons demand. VA operations must be fully examined and improved, not just allowed to operate as before under a new Secretary. Impediments to efficient care that are built into the fabric of the organization must be removed. They must adjust, devise meaningful goals, move into the present. Closing this investigation simply because the Secretary resigned would represent the greatest failure of all. The Veterans deserve full discovery and a thorough revision of the Standard Operating Procedures.
May 30, 2014