Eric Shinseki

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Eric Shinseki
Eric Shinseki official Veterans Affairs portrait.jpg
Former U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
In office
January 21, 2009 - May 30, 2014
Elections and appointments
NominatedDecember 6, 2008
ConfirmedJanuary 20, 2009
AppointedJanuary 21, 2009
Appointed byBarack Obama
High schoolKauai High School
Bachelor'sUnited States Military Academy
Master'sDuke University
OtherArmor Officer Advanced Course, United States Army Command and General Staff College and the National War College
Military service
Service/branchArmy Chief of Staff
Years of service1999-2003
CitationsDefense Distinguished Service Medal

Army Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit (x2)
Bronze Star (x3)
Purple Heart (x2)
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal

Army Commendation Medal (x2)
Service branchArmy Vice Chief of Staff
Years of service1998-1999
Date of birthNovember 28, 1942
Place of birthLihue, Hawaii
ProfessionMilitary commander
Eric Ken Shinseki (b. November 28, 1942, in Lihue, Hawaii) was formerly the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He was confirmed by the Senate on January 20, 2009, by a voice vote.[1] He resigned from office on May 30, 2014, amid controversy over secret waiting lists which delayed care in VA hospitals across the country.[2]

Shinseki previously served in the United States Army for 38 years, as well as sitting on the boards of military contracting companies Ducommun and Honeywell and Hawaiian companies Grove Farm Corp and First Hawaiian Bank.[3]


Shinseki was born in Lihue, Hawaii, where he attended Kauai High School.[4] He graduated from the United States Military Academy before beginning his 38 year military career. During his service, Shinseki earned his M.A. from Duke University.[5] He served in Vietnam and Bosnia and was injured twice in combat.[4]


Below is an abbreviated outline of Shinseki's academic, professional and political career:[6][5][3]

  • 1965: Graduated from the United States Military Academy
  • 1965-1966: Second Lieutenant of Artillery in the United States Army in Vietnam
  • 1967-1968: Assistant Secretary and Secretary to the General Staff in the United States Army in Hawaii
  • 1969-1970: Commander of the Troop A, 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment in the United States Army in Vietnam
  • 1976: Earned M.A. from Duke University
  • 1984-1985: Commander of the First Calvary Division
  • 1989-1990: G-3 for the VII US Corps
  • 1996-1997: Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans in the United States Army
  • 1997-1998: Commanding General in the United States Army
  • 1998-1999: Vice Chief of Staff for the United States Army
  • 1999-2003: Chief of Staff for the United States Army
  • 2008-2014: U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Note: Some assignments were not given a timeline, including Shinseki's service as: "Commander, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Infantry Division; Commander, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division; Deputy Chief of Staff, Support for Allied Land Forces Southern Europe; Assistant Division Commander-Maneuver, 3rd Infantry Division; Commander, 1st Cavalry Division."[5]

Confirmation vote

Shinseki was confirmed by the Senate on January 20, 2009, by a voice vote.[1]


VA hospital waiting lines

See also: Veterans Affairs' secret waiting lists

According to reports by CNN in 2014, veterans hospitals across the country were delaying care of veteran patients, at times to the point that some veterans conditions deteriorated vastly or died due to the wait times. To cover for the long delays, some hospitals resorted to "secret lists" for patients awaiting care in order to keep their official wait times down. The following reports were released by CNN:[7]

  • On November 20, 2013, it was reported that at Williams Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina, patients were not receiving routine gastrointestinal procedures until up to a year after requesting an appointment, at times even longer. A review of 280 gastrointestinal patients showed that 52 of the patients showed complications due to the delay in care and early detection. The VA confirmed six deaths resulted from delayed care at the hospital, but CNN's sources suggested the number could have been as high as 20.[8]
The Dorn hospital also received an addition $1 million in federal funding in 2011 in order to treat the patients on long waiting lists. However, according to documents, only one-third of the federal funds went to the intended destination.[8]
  • The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia, experienced the deaths of three patients due to long delays in treatment and had a waiting list of over 4,500 patients.[8]
  • Between 2010 and 2011, VA internal documents indicated 82 veterans died or were dying in part due to delayed care from VA hospitals in the United States.[9]
  • In the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system in Phoenix, Arizona, at least 40 veterans died waiting for care. The VA system in Phoenix used a secret waiting list. The secret list was used as a placeholder for patients whose care would be delayed for months. VA guidelines require care be given in a timely manner, usually within three weeks, but the Phoenix system used the secret list to hold names between the times appointments were made until the appointment could be made within the required VA timeline.[7]

Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee began investigating the VA hospital delays in November 2013.[8] In April 2014, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) ordered all records be preserved and intended to make the issue a congressional investigation.[7]

The VA hospitals in Nashville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, had 4,752 new patients go through their facilities during a six month period ending March 31, 2014. Of those, only 29.6 percent saw treatment in the 14-day window goal set by the Veterans Affairs Department, representing the lowest score nationwide excluding those with the secret lists. The facilities with the highest percentage of new patients seen were located in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where 93.7 percent were seen in the 14-day window.[10]

A VA internal report showed that staff at nearly two-thirds of the nation's 216 facilities were instructed to falsify wait time information on reports. In an editorial in Time, Rep. Jeff Miller, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, stated, "Any VA administrator who ordered subordinates to purposely manipulate appointment data should be fired immediately."[11]


The whistleblower in the Phoenix system, Dr. Sam Foote, explained that as more veterans enrolled in the system, the stress on medical professionals grew. As the doctors and other professionals felt more stress, many began to leave the VA, leaving fewer people to care for the growing number of veterans. He noted that as the stress mounted on a fewer number of practitioners, medical mistakes became more common.[12]

Foote saw bonuses and promotions being awarded to the administrators for their reports on improved wait times, but he also heard about appointment schedulers being told that the patients they were calling for had already died. Foote lodged complaints with the VA's office of the inspector general, but he then started to get increased hours and more patients. He then contacted the media with his story and the reports eventually found their way to Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) and the federal investigation began.[12]

Hospital official bonuses

Despite the delays in care in facilities across the United States, many hospital and regional directors received bonuses worth between $7,500 to $80,000.[13]

Calls for Shinseki resignation

On May 5, 2014, the American Legion, the largest veteran organization in the U.S., and Concerned Veterans for America called for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki.[14] American Legion's director stated, "At least let us know that the problems exist and they have a plan to take care of it," when asked about the lack of communication from the VA. Shinseki responded to the calls for resignation, saying, "I serve at the pleasure of the president. I signed on to make some changes, I have work to do."[15]

Actions taken

The director and two other high-ranking officials in the Phoenix VA system were placed on administrative leave on May 1, 2014, with their replacements being appointed on May 10. Former director Sharon Helman was replaced by interim director Steve Young who was charged with oversight of the 85,000 veterans and $500 million budget while the investigation was underway.[16]

Shinseki testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs committee on May 15, 2014, stating, "I’m committed to take all actions necessary to identify exactly what the issues are, to fix them and to strengthen veterans’ trust in VA health care. If any allegations are substantiated by the inspector general, we will act." Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) questioned the leadership ability of the secretary and others in the department, claiming, "VA senior leadership, including the secretary, should have been aware that VA was facing a national scheduling crisis. VA leadership either failed to connect the dots or failed to address this ongoing crisis, which has resulted in patient harm and patient deaths."

Prior to the hearing, President Obama announced that Deputy White House Chief of Staff Rob Nabors would lead a review of the VA's scheduling process and patient safety rules.[17] Two organizations, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), also launched a whistle-blower website for those who were affected by the controversial secret waiting lists. The head of POGO stated, "Whistle-blowers shouldn’t have to go it alone. We can help whistle-blowers hold the VA accountable, and keep the focus on solutions rather than attempts to hunt down those who voiced concerns."[18]

The VA's undersecretary for health, Dr. Robert Petzel, resigned on May 16, 2014, though he had already announced his retirement in September 2013 and his replacement was named on May 1, 2014.[19]

President Obama accepted Shinseki's resignation on May 30, 2014.[2] Sloan Gibson, who was confirmed in February 2014 to be Shinseki's deputy secretary, was named acting secretary of veterans affairs until a replacement could be nominated and confirmed.[20]

Prior claims against the VA

A report by the Dayton Daily News examined VA records going back to 2001 and revealed that the department paid $34.7 million in 167 claims containing "delay in treatment" in their descriptions. The report stated that it was unclear how many of them met the department's "delayed care" description, but stated that the number of veterans who died due to problems at VA facilities could be as high as 1,100 from 2001 through the first half of 2013.[21]


Shinseki is married with two children.[4]

Recent news

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External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Real Clear Politics, "Senate Confirms 6 cabinet secretaries," January 20, 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 Politico, "President Barack Obama accepts Eric Shinseki’s resignation," May 30, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Washington Post, "Shinseki Slated to Head VA, Obama Confirms," December 6, 2008
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 U.S. News and World Report, "10 Things You Didn’t Know About Gen. Eric Shinseki," December 18, 2008
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Eric K. Shinseki," accessed December 31, 2013 (dead link)
  6. Project VoteSmart, "Eric Shinseki biography," accessed December 31, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 CNN, "A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital's secret list," April 24, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 CNN, "Hospital delays are killing America's war veterans," November 20, 2013
  9. CNN, "Veterans dying because of health care delays," January 30, 2014
  10. Tennessean, "Wait times at Midstate VA hospitals longest in nation," June 3, 2014
  11. Time, "Why Veterans Affairs Can’t Root Out Its Corruption," June 2, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 AZ Central, "The doctor who launched the VA scandal," June 3, 2014
  13. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, "VA Accountability," accessed April 28, 2014
  14. CNN, "Two key veterans groups call for VA chief Eric Shinseki to resign," May 5, 2014
  15. Wall Street Journal, "Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki Says He Won't Resign," May 6, 2014
  16. Huffington Post, "Changes Are Coming To The Embattled Veterans Affairs Health Care System," May 10, 2014
  17. Politico, "Eric Shinseki ‘mad as hell’ over VA scandal," May 15, 2014
  18. Fox News, "Whistle-blower website launched to expose VA wrongdoing," May 19, 2014
  19. NPR, "Top VA Health Official Resigns Amid Scandal Over Treatment Delays," May 16, 2014
  20. New York Times, "V.A.’s Acting Chief: West Point Graduate and Ex-Leader of U.S.O.," May 30, 2014
  21. Dayton Daily News, "‘Delay in treatment’ a factor in more than 100 deaths at VA centers," May 17, 2014
Political offices
Preceded by
James B. Peake
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Succeeded by
Robert McDonald