While the media ramps up coverage of Congressional calls for Secretary for Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki’s resignation, the Senate ought to examine its own role in this crisis.
Two of three assistant secretary positions that have gone unfilled in the Veterans Administration, because they are awaiting Senate confirmation. Linda Schwartz was appointed last summer by President Obama to be Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning. A veteran and nurse, Dr. Schwartz is the Commissioner for Veterans Affairs in Connecticut. She served as a nurse in the Air Force during the Vietnam War before becoming disabled from a freak accident while on a cargo plane that left her disabled. She is unwavering in her commitment to serving the nation’s veterans. To learn more about her story, watch this video that was produce by a student at Yale University.
On November 19, 2013, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs voted unanimously to support Schwartz’s appointment and she was expected to quickly be approved by the full Senate. Six months later, the full Senate has not even considered her nomination.
While Congress wants to hold Shinseki accountable for the excessive and unacceptable wait times for veterans using the VA health system, who will hold the Senate accountable for its delays in ensuring that the VA has the leadership it needs to fix this problem and prevent others from occurring?
Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN, Rudin Professor of Nursing, Hunter College