Veterans react to Shinseki's resignation

FRANCONIA, Va. (WUSA9) -- Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized publicly before heading to the White House to hand in his resignation to President Obama.

But he did not go down alone. He fired top managers at the VA medical center in Phoenix where allegation of mismanagement first surfaced.

Veterans we talked to are not celebrating Shinseki's resignation. They see the four-star General as an honorable and tough leader. But they hope his departure and the public outrage will bring about necessary changes.

Lee Komich of Franconia, Virginia was a helicopter pilot for the Army in the Vietnam War. He was injured spraying agent organe and had to wait for treatment through the VA back in the 1980's. He says it took three attempts on his part before receiving treatment.

But now, of course, it is not just delays.

A Veterans Affairs audit cites a failure of VA leadership for widespread problems with the health care system for veterans and the apparent cover-up of scheduling delays. The audit concludes that VA schedulers were pressured to use bad practices to make waiting times for medical appointments look more favorable. The audit says the decision to set a maximum 14-day wait time for appointments without providing necessary resources amounted to an organizational leadership failure.

The audit found that in some instances schedulers were instructed to enter different desired dates than the one requested by the veteran, thus masking waiting times.

Now that Eric Shinseki has resigned, veterans wonder if anybody can fix the massive system.

"I'm not sure the system as it stands right now is correctable," said Komich.

Many vets, like Dennis Kelly of Springfield, have had good service from VA hospitals. "Excellent," said Kelly.

If there is a silver lining for veterans in today's headlines, it is that, unlike four decades ago, the public cares about how veterans are being treated.

"When the guys came home from Vietnam, they told us, 'don't' wear your uniforms," said Komich. The people could have cared less about us, he said. Now, when troops go by, people applaud.

"I think that's great.," said Komich.


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