Give Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this: He definitely follows the news.
As the Department of Veterans Affairs and its secretary, retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, face a firestorm of criticism over the treatment of veterans at some of its facilities, Hagel called for a “comprehensive review” of the health-care system that administers to hundreds of thousands of active-duty troops. The 90-day checkup will be led by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and solicit perspective from outside experts on how the U.S. military’s health-care system does in providing care and safety to its patients, Hagel said Wednesday in a memo to Pentagon leaders.
“The Department must continue to provide the best available health care to our Service men and women, and their families, who have sacrificed so much on behalf of the Nation,” Hagel said in the memo. “They deserve nothing short of our highest level of effort. Accordingly, I fully expect the Review to lead to Departmental standards that exceed the national averages in access to, safety, and quality of health care.”
Hagel said he wants a plan for the review to be delivered to him by June 6, with regular updates provided throughout. A final report will be delivered to the secretary by Aug. 29.
An independent review released Wednesday determined that VA officials in Phoenix falsified records to cover up how much time military veterans had to wait for medical appointments, and said an investigation showed it was a “systemic problem nationwide.” The details in the report prompted a new wave of calls for Shinseki’s resignation.