The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its secretary, Eric Shinseki, are under fire as reports surface about negligence at VA hospitals, including the death of around 40 military veterans in Phoenix who were placed on a "secret waiting list" to delay their care. Two administrators have been placed on official leave as the investigation continues.
The news has caused outcry across the country, particularly from veterans groups. Earlier this week the American Legion, the largest veterans organization in the country, called on Shinseki to resign. "It's not something we do lightly. But we do so today because it is our responsibility as advocate for the men and women who have worn this nation's uniform," Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of the American Legion, told CNN. Joining the Legion in that call was the group Concerned Veterans of America, a conservative veterans organization.
But one veterans group has been mostly silent about the story. VoteVets, a self-professed "progressive" veterans group that became known for its opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, says in its mission statement that the organization "recognizes veterans as a vital part of the fabric of our country and will work to protect veterans' interests in their day-to-day lives."
But there's no mention of the VA abuse story on the VoteVets website. The current top link, in fact, sends the browser to a website asking Congress to "save the renewable fuel standard." The group has not issued a single press release or official statement on the stories since they began appearing in January of this year. (There have, however, been six releases advocating for the renewable fuel standard.)
It wasn't until Wednesday that anyone connected to VoteVets said anything publicly about the story. Co-founder Jon Soltz penned an article for the Huffington Post that's mostly a full-throated defense of Shinseki in light of the calls for his resignation. Soltz spends just one paragraph about the veterans themselves:
This isn't to say that what's been reported at the Phoenix VA facility, and others like it, is acceptable. Far from it. It makes my skin crawl and my blood boil to hear that possibly as many as 40 veterans may have died, waiting for care from that facility. As someone who lived in Pittsburgh after returning from my first tour, it made me furious to hear about the Legionella outbreak at the facility there. We cannot accept substandard care for veterans whether that is in VA hospitals or private sectors hospitals.
Soltz adds that Shinseki needs to provide an explanation, but only after all the facts are in. VoteVets still has no official statement, though it is the position of the organization that Shinseki should not resign, a spokesman clarifies.