Over the weekend, retired four star Army General Eric Shinseki, was appointed as the Secretary of Veteran Affairs in the new Obama administration. So what does this mean for one of the largest government agencies?
Personally, I don’t think it’ll change too much; it depends on if and how Shinseki shakes things up in the VA. He has definitely presented a record of speaking his mind regardless of status quo and that actually would help shape up the agency, but with Obama’s administration pushing “change”, this is one of the few agencies that runs decently outside of their bad image.
Most people see the Department of Veteran Affairs as “the scary medical place,” where you hear the horror stories of veterans who don’t get their benefits until months later. What you’re not told are the other non-federal agencies that push the veterans to make claims, or how the process of claims work, or even why those claims are approved or denied. In this case, the Department of Veteran Affairs needs to have a strong public relations team. Perhaps Shinseki is the guy to put this together. Perhaps not. But it is interesting that under the current leadership, the Department of Veteran Affairs still gets a lot of bad press.
Here’s a great example: on today’s episode of NPR’s Morning Edition, Joseph Shapiro talks about how the VA works, but from a veteran’s perspective. This negative tone has plagued the VA since at least the Vietnam War era and I have always wondered why they don’t actually explain how things work so that veterans and press alike would understand where and why it takes a month or more to clear a benefit claim. Here, the appointment of retired General Shinseki speaks in vast towards the fact that he fights for the veterans — but will he be able to fight for the agency too? Only time will tell.