As VA death scandal widens, General Shinseki’s history of ending careers

As the furor and subsequent investigation of accusations that at least four different Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities have purposefully “cooked the books” which may have resulted in the needless deaths of dozens of vets nationwide continues to grow, the head man at the VA has vented his anger, but gives no sign he’ll be stepping down. As reported by CNN on May 16, 2014, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki, US Army (Retired) has admitted publicly that he’s “mad as hell” over the growing number of accusations that certain VA medical facilities have juggled patient’s medical schedules that may have led to the needless deaths of at least 40 of those they were to help.

Despite Shinseki’s self-proclaimed anger, there’s no sign on the horizon that he intends to step down or that his boss, Barack Obama, will be asking for his resignation anytime soon. Pointing to his 41 years in uniform, many in the nation have rallied to the banner of Shinseki, claiming he deserves more support and respect because of his service while in the Army. However, many are calling for the Commander-in-Chief to outright fire Shinseki for the alleged deaths under his watch.

Sparks fly…

During this week’s US Senate hearing regarding the allegations, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) queried of Shinseki that in the aftermath of numerous Inspector General and Office of Medical Inspector reports being made public, shouldn’t “the VA senior leadership, including the Secretary, have been aware that VA was facing a national scheduling crisis?” Not quite done, the senior senator from the Tar Heel State pointedly added, “VA’s leadership has either failed to connect the dots or failed to address this ongoing crisis, which has resulted in patient harm and patient death.

CNN previously reported on May 13, 2014 that four separate VA medical facilities are in the public spotlight for allegedly playing fast and loose with official patient schedules, described in one case as “cooking the books,” that very well may have caused dozens of veterans to fatally had required medical treatment withheld.

You stand relieved of all duties…

As most veterans and students of history will attest, any combat leader who has needless deaths under their watch can and usually does find themselves relieved of all duties. Secretary Shinseki himself has a history while in uniform of ensuring careers were brought to unceremonious endings.

Case in point, while ordered to peacekeeping duty to Kosovo in Sept. 1999, four officers and five enlisted men of the Army’s famed 82d Airborne Division’s 3rd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Regiment found their careers crashing down around them on the express orders of the Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki. As reported by The Washington Times and The New York Times both on Sept. 20, 2000, accusations arose that the combat-soldiers-turned-policemen “accused the soldiers’ commanders in Kosovo of displaying a ‘propensity toward Serb favoritism’ and an overly hostile attitude toward Kosovo’s Albanians. It concluded that they either knew or should have known about complaints that soldiers were using excessive force and mistreating women by groping their breasts and buttocks during searches.

Specifically, even though the paratroopers received no law enforcement training prior to deploying from their Ft. Bragg, NC home base, “on Sept. 8 [of 2000] the Chief of Staff, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, had ordered a new review of training, leadership and readiness of the division to address the investigation’s findings. He ordered the commander of the Army’s Forces Command, Gen. John W. Hendrix, ‘to take corrective actions as appropriate’ within 30 days.” The Army’s lead investigator, Col. John W. Morgan III, hammered the Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Michael D. Ellerbe, when he concluded the soldiers “‘experienced difficulties tempering their combat mentality’ and adapting to the sort of low-level violence and intimidation found between Kosovo’s Serbs and Albanians” as well as “for failing to take seriously numerous reports that his men were mistreating civilians.

History teaches…

In the history of the Armed Forces of the United States, in light that men die in war, leaders ranging from a Marine Corporal in charge of a four-man Fire Team to Flag Officers responsible for tens of thousands have found themselves relieved of duty if it was deemed troops they were responsible for were needlessly killed in the line of duty.

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, US Navy, was relieved of duty while Commander-in-Chief of the entire U.S. Pacific Fleet when Pearl Harbor was attacked by air and naval forces of the Japanese Empire on Dec. 7, 1941. Along with the Admiral, Lt. General Walter C. Short  was also booted from his command of the US Army’s Hawaiian Department which in size and strength was roughly equivalent to an Army Corps.