Amid an ongoing controversy regarding serious issues within the Department of Veterans Affairs, the organization’s top health official announced his resignation last week. Accusations that VA hospitals maintained secret waiting lists revealing postponed medical procedures have been linked to multiple veteran deaths.
In a press conference Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney attempted to portray Dr. Robert Petzel’s ouster as a positive step in the scandal, suggesting the American Legion publicly heralded the development as a move in the right direction.
“The American Legion said that the group looks at Petzel’s resignation as a ‘step towards addressing the leadership problem at the VA,’” Carney attested, claiming the statement “undercuts the assertion that that is not a meaningful development.”
As it turns out, however, the quote used does not tell the entire story. In fact the American Legion actually expressed a wholly different take on the situation in a statement by American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger.
“This move by VA is not a corrective action,” the group’s statement continued, “but a continuation of business as usual.”
The organization confirmed that Petzel “was already scheduled to retire this year,” explaining his resignation at this point is largely irrelevant.
According to its statement, the American Legion is truly interested in seeing the dismissal of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Undersecretary Allison Hickey.
“They are both part of VA’s leadership problem, and we want them to resign as soon as possible,” the statement asserted.
As for Carney’s apparent misrepresentation, the White House cited VA spokesperson John Raughter’s comments that the move was a positive step. He later clarified, however, that its importance was grossly exaggerated by the Obama administration.
“It was a small step,” he said. “It was going to happen anyway. So, I suppose it was better than if he had stayed on the job.”
Regarding any lasting impact Petzel’s resignation will have on the VA, Raughter said there won’t be one.
“We feel there is a cultural change that needs to be made,” he said.”
Photo Credit: Facebook/The American Legion National Headquarters