All soldiers want to advance to victory. But they also know the value of a sensible retreat — none more so than Gen. Eric Shinseki, the besieged secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department who resigned late last week.
It was time for General Shinseki to go, whether he was forced out or realized his hopeless position. As scandals in the V.A. continue to mount, he would have not done anybody good by staying longer — not himself, and not President Obama, who initially stood by him. All he could do was apologize for his failures and go.
The dysfunction at the V.A. has become more evident in recent days. An inspector general’s report found that government officials falsified records to hide the length of time veterans had to wait for medical appointments.
The problem went beyond the troubles at the Phoenix V.A. medical center. It was a “systemic problem nationwide,” the report concludes.
The V.A. has been big, bureaucratic, and problem-prone for years, through both Democratic and Republican administrations. It has become responsible for more veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the very time that the political impetus in Congress is to spend less money.
The Veterans Affairs Department needs a new secretary. It’s also time to consider a new model for how the V.A. should operate.