Veterans groups offer mixed reactions to Obama’s VA remarks


VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, center, listens to American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger, left, speak during a hearing. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Veterans organizations offered mixed reviews Wednesday of President Obama’s remarks about the alleged cover-ups of treatment delays at Veterans Affairs hospitals, with some expressing disappointment with his comments while others applauded them.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America released a statement saying Obama’s response came too late and did nothing to instill confidence that the administration will truly fix the scheduling problems.

“Speeches and excuses will not solve this problem,”  said IAVA chief executive Paul Reickhoff. “Only decisive leadership, bold change and strong accountability will repair decades of failure.”

The group also called on Congress to pass the VA Accountability Act, which would give the VA secretary authority to fire officials without the usual administrative procedures if they demonstrate performance problems.

The American Legion issued a statement questioning Obama’s decision to keep VA Secretary Eric K. Shinskeki on board and asking why the president did not take action on the scheduling issues earlier.

“If the administration has known about these issues for at least four years, why is it just now taking action?” said Daniel Dellinger, the group’s national commander.

The American Legion, the largest veterans-service organization in the nation, has called for Shinseki and two other top VA officials to resign over the alleged cover-ups.

MORE: American Legion calls for resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki 

Despite criticizing certain aspects of Obama’s response, Dellinger commended the president for “committing himself to hold leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs more accountable for their actions.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars offered nothing but support for Obama’s remarks. VFW national commander William Thien said in a statement: “They were the right words, and we share the president’s urgency to fix what’s broke, to hold people appropriately accountable, and to restore faith in the VA.”

The VFW disagreed this month with the American Legion’s calls for Shinseki to resign.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to federalworker@washpost.com.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · May 21