Interim VA secretary rolls up his sleeves on care


The interim head of the Veterans Affairs Department promised on Monday to root out the systemic fraud that has plagued the agency’s nationwide healthcare system.

“VA’s first priority is to get all veterans off waiting lists and into clinics while we address the underlying issues that have been impeding veteran’s access to healthcare,” VA acting Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a statement. “The president had made clear that this is his expectation.”

Gibson took over after Eric Shinseki resigned on Friday, following a pair of reports that found widespread mismanagement throughout most of the VA medical care system, including, among other things, personnel employing various schemes to cover up how long veterans had to wait to see a doctor.

“Systemic problems in scheduling process have been exacerbated by leadership failures and ethical lapses,” according to Gibson, who joined the VA three months ago as Shinseki’s deputy. “I will use all available authority to swiftly and decisively address issues of willful misconduct or mismanagement.”

He vowed to work with members of Congress, academia, public and private organizations, and “all other agencies and institutions that can help us move forward.”

Congress is already working to give the next VA chief expanded powers, with the House passing a bill last month that would make it easier to fire the department's underperforming executives.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee recently outlined a new bill to overhaul the troubled agency. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has proposed a measure similar to the House version, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and a group of fellow Republicans are set to unveil another VA measure on Tuesday.