Murkowski Pushing Obama to Keep VA Secretary Shinseki

Senator: General “Took Bull by the Horns” to Improve VA’s Dysfunction

With President Obama’s recent re-election a reality and potential administration changes looming, Senator Lisa Murkowski is strongly encouraging President Obama to retain Veterans Affairs Secretary General Eric Shinseki, calling on the White House to keep him in place by pointing out the “sea change” Alaska’s veterans are seeing with across-the-board improvements in care and services under his leadership.

In a letter sent to the White House two days before Alaska and the nation celebrates Veterans Day, Senator Murkowski spelled out the historical shortcomings of the VA’s work in Alaska, and stressed to the President “All of this is beginning to change for the better and that is largely attributable to the leadership of General Eric Shinseki, perhaps the wisest of all your cabinet choices.”  She continued her positive review, adding “General Shinseki was a breath of fresh air.  He agreed to take ownership of the problems I put in his lap.  Even though change did not occur overnight, General Shinseki has delivered on his commitments.”

In the letter (attached), Murkowski lays out the case for keeping Secretary Shinseki in place, so that the positive momentum in Alaska continues:

Steady Improvement for Alaskans:

“Alaska has new leadership in the Veterans Benefits Administration office.  Morale has improved steadily.  And claims processing times have improved to the point that other offices now think of Anchorage as a place to broker their claims.”

Rural care:

“Under Secretary Shinseki’s leadership, the Alaska VA has its first ever Rural Health Program Coordinator, Susan Yeager. Under Ms. Yeager’s leadership the VA has entered into agreements for the first time with components of Alaska’s tribal healthcare delivery system to provide care to Alaska veterans in the rural areas through tribal facilities near their homes.”

Care Closer to Home:

“In 2010 the VA Inspector General investigated the frequency with which Alaska veterans were asked to travel for VA care and validated my concerns. Secretary Shinseki concluded this was unconscionable. And since 2010 the number of veterans asked to travel “Outside” has been consistently dropping because the Alaska VA Healthcare System has been provided sufficient resources to purchase healthcare at home.”

In closing, Senator Murkowski writes, “One of the best gifts that you can give to America’s veterans this Veterans Day is the commitment that Eric Shinseki will remain on the job in the new administration to continue the real progress he has made.”