Boston College Expert: Problems with Veterans Affairs
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Professor of Poltical Science
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Professor Landy is a leading expert on the U.S. presidency, from election to office. He is the co-author of several books including Presidential Greatness, the textbook, American Government: Balancing Liberty and Democracy, Environmental Protection Agency From Nixon to Clinton: Asking the Wrong Questions; and American Politics: The Enduring Conflict. He has also published numerous articles including “The Presidency in the Eye of the Storm, The Presidency and the Political System,” and “Great Presidents are Agents of Democratic Change.” He is a frequent commentator and has appeared on BBC, NPR, and in Associated Press, and USA Today as well as various other publications and television news shows.
A day after a scathing Inspector General’s report claimed 1,700 veterans in the Phoenix area waiting for healthcare weren’t on any waiting lists, more than a dozen congressional Democrats joined the growing chorus calling for the ouster of Veterans Affair Secretary General Eric Shinseki.
“President Obama does not like to fire people,” says Boston College Political Science Professor Marc Landy, Ph.D. “That’s both an admirable quality and a political liability. He so appreciates the difficulties of their circumstances but he also sees it as a reflection of his own decision making with which he hired these people. And that reflects badly on him if he fires them.”
The report also found patients at the Phoenix facility waited on average 115 days for a first visit. Given this, Landy says the time has come for the president to demand accountability in the agency whose primary responsibility is the care of America’s veterans.
“In our form of government, there has to be accountability, and if a senior executive fails miserably, they must be fired,” says Landy, a presidential expert and author of the book, Presidential Greatness. “It’s not in itself a solution, but you have to signal to the organization involved. The most important reason to fire Shinseki is what it says to the Department of Veterans Affairs, ‘There’s obviously a great deal of malfeasance. We’re going to clean house. We’re going to upend this failed bureaucracy.’”
Shinseki penned an op-ed in USA Today saying he has no intention of resigning and is determined the clean up the massive problems he wasn’t aware of.
“One of the greatest responsibilities of a senior executive is to be aware – that’s what they have to be, they have to be aware,” says Landy. “That’s Shinseki’s failure, that whatever else he was doing, he allowed a situation to develop where veterans were dying because of a lack of treatment. He has no more serious responsibility than that, to have some kind of decent pipeline of information about how these agencies operate. That’s why he has to be fired. It doesn’t matter that he’s done many good things as well.
“What does the Veterans Department do that is more important than providing medical care to its veterans? How could he not know? That’s the big question – how did he not know? He must fall on his sword. Shinseki is a soldier – he should understand this.”
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