Eric Shinseki, a truly noble soldier and leader, became Secretary of Veterans Affairs for the United States in 2009.
He was handed a project of immense scope and intractability. It was bulging with problems and pulsating with explosive risk. The VA mess went back decades, and that was well known. The agency also had been honored for the quality of care that it often provided for at least most of the people who made it into the VA facilities.
But hundreds of thousands of additional candidates for VA care were produced by the wars of our last two decades, and Vietnam veterans are into their care-intensive age. Studies and commissions have shown that the VA is buried under demands it simply cannot meet.
Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, including in his promised programs the solution to the VA mess. Eric Shinseki was qualified as a superb executive. He had risen to the very top of the military hierarchy of the United States, serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He had demonstrated great courage in opposing the Bush administration’s Iraq War, a stand that cost him his career.