WASHINGTON —Today a mid-level copy clerk working for the Department of Veterans Affairs reportedly unearthed the latest in a series of documents evidencing wanton delays within the V.A. The letter of resignation, signed by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and dated over three months ago, would seem to indicate that bureaucratic ineptitude—and not stubborn loyalty—has delayed the secretary’s ouster.
“I was going through patient intake forms from 1999-2001 to schedule next week’s appointments,” said copy clerk Thomas Farfellow, “when I came across a note in the secretary’s handwriting that detailed how sorry he was for failing to bring about much needed efficiencies in the department.”
The handwritten letter of resignation was deemed unofficial because it had yet to be transcribed by Secretary Shinseki’s secretary, who has been on sick leave for five weeks while waiting for life-saving surgery at a nearby V.A. hospital.
Despite continued public support from the White House and—until recently—the American Legion, Shinseki has come under fire from a growing chorus of outraged Republican lawmakers calling for his resignation. The secretary claims he intended to return each of those calls in the order they were received, but his hands were tied by red tape that prevented him from resigning any faster. The department has promised improvements.
“The resignation was buried amid mountains of paperwork, backlogged disability claims, and medical appointment requests,” said Bob McFein, a spokesperson for the department. “We regret the oversight and will work to ensure that ineffectual bureaucrats are never again protected by the disorganized bureaucratic system they oversaw.
“Rest assured that we fixed the glitch. From now on, all employees will have access to PalmPilots to help keep them on top of their workload,” McFein told reporters as he waved off further questions, reminding them that “all inquiries must be submitted in writing two to four weeks in advance of a press availability.”
Many questions remain, including the extent to which off-the-books waitlists, like those allegedly employed by the V.A.’s medical center in Phoenix, were used to hide departmental backlogs. Dozens of veterans may have died awaiting care in Phoenix.
Shinseki will have a chance to answer these questions before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee this Thursday, where he is also expected to address why the death certificates of those patients in Phoenix have gone missing.