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Shinseki's Letter to Veterans

By Ed O'Keefe
Eric Shinsheki
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric. K. Shinseki

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki sent the following letter to military veterans this week, introducing himself as "Ric" and noting his own military service.

An Open Letter to Veterans

From Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2009) - Following is an open letter to Veterans
from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki:

"My name is Ric Shinseki, and I am a Veteran. For me, serving as Secretary of Veterans Affairs is a noble calling. It provides me the opportunity to give back to those who served with and for me during my 38 years in uniform and those on whose shoulders we all stood as we grew up in the profession of arms.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs has a solemn responsibility to all of you, today and in the future, as more Veterans join our ranks and enroll to secure the benefits and services they have earned. I am fully committed to fulfilling President Obama's vision for transforming our department so that it will be well-positioned to perform this duty even better during the 21st Century. We welcome the assistance and advice of our Veterans Service Organizations, other government departments and agencies, Congress, and all VA stakeholders as we move forward, ethically and transparently, so that Veterans and citizens can understand our efforts.

"Creating that vision for transforming the VA into a 21st Century organization requires a comprehensive review of our department. We approach that review understanding that Veterans are central to everything VA does. We know that results count, that the department will be measured by what we do, not what we promise, and that our best days as an organization supporting Veterans are ahead of us. We will fulfill President Lincoln's charge to care for ". . . him, who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan . . ." by redesigning and reengineering ourselves for the future.

"Transforming any institution is supremely challenging; I know this from my own experience in leading large, proud, complex, and high-performing organizations through change. But the best organizations must be prepared to meet the challenging times, evolving technology and, most importantly, evolving needs of clients. Historically, organizations that are unwilling or unable to change soon find themselves irrelevant. You and your needs are not irrelevant.

"Veterans are our clients, and delivering the highest quality care and services in a timely, consistent and fair manner is a VA responsibility. I take that responsibility seriously and have charged all of the department's employees for their best efforts and support every day to meet our obligations to you. Our path forward is challenging, but the President and Congress support us. They have asked us to do this well-for you. Veterans are our sole reason for existence and our number one priority-bar none. I look forward to working together with all VA employees to transform our department into an organization that reflects the change and commitment our country expects and our Veterans deserve.

"Thank you, and God bless our military, our Veterans, and our Nation."

Signed: Eric K. Shinseki

SOURCE: Department of Veterans Affairs

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 13, 2009; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Workplace Issues  
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For goodness' sake, can't you spell the General's name correctly in your headline and intro?

Posted by: BachFan | March 13, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Words sound good on paper, but whether or not you can actually "transform" the terribly inadequate VA system is another question. If Veterans are your No. 1 priority, please act with a sense of urgency. Too many are homeless without health care, decent food or a warm, safe place to rest or share companionship with their buddies. Do away with the required red tape, long delays and try to resolve the increasing numbers of Veterans who unexplainably go missing within the system. Do right by "those who have borne the battle" for they have done right by America.

Posted by: poescrow | March 13, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

At least Shinseki notes the mission of the VA - a mission totally ignored for the last 8 years:
"Veterans are our sole reason for existence and our number one priority-bar none"

Posted by: cymric | March 15, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Because servicemen must risk their lives in the national defense while receiving far less pay than anyone doing a similar job as a civilian, they have been given legal rights to a variety of benefits as a kind of deferred payment. However, after the servicemen have upheld their part of the contract and fought the nation's wars, the government decides that paying the modest benefits and giving the veterans the chance for education and a decent job would be too burdonsome. Politicians fully understand that bailouts to rich bankers bring financial favors for themselves from the bankers in return, while paying benefits owed to veterans brings them no personal advantage. Universities like federal money, and veterans do not have enough to satisfy them. They therefore do not like to admit veterans. Later, they refuse to hire veterans for their faculties. Civil servants who dodged the draft in their youth do not want to have to compete with veterans on the job, so they do not allow their agencies to hire any. Just as it did with our native Americans a century or two ago, the government starts breaking its contract with its servicemen before the ink is dry. Ask a Democrat what he thinks about this and he will tell you that veterans are only baby killers and other psychos and underserving of any consideration. A Republican will apologize but say that the government has other priorities that are more important, and veterans should stop seeking welfare and start supporting himself. Republicans, you see, regard veterans' benefits as a form of welfare and not part of the sacred contract they agreed to at the time they sent the servicemen off to war. Neither party will agree to uphold the government's side of the contract because there are more non-veterans than veterans, and after the danger is past, the non-veterans will not agree to share any of the gains they made while staying home and letting others defend America.
Gen. Shinseki's will need much more than nice words to change the situation for the servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan. If nothing is done, the homeless veteran will continue to be a fixture in every American city for another generation. Although our newspapers like to make it seem as if the problem lies with the psychology of the homeless veterans, it really lies with the psychology of the employers who stayed home and benefitted from the war prosperity and would feel uncomfortable working with those who sacrificed for the country while they were getting rich.

Posted by: cwheckman | March 17, 2009 6:13 AM | Report abuse

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