Bob McDonald, the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, announced a large restructuring of his agency this week on the eve of Veterans Day.

After a scandal rocked the Department of Veterans Affairs over the summer, former secretary Eric K. Shinseki – McDonald’s predecessor – resigned amidst calls for reform by veterans and government officials alike.

The scandal, which was brought to light by an independent report, revealed that VA officials had falsified records to conceal unacceptable waiting times for its patients. Such delays had resulted in several deaths.

“We didn't have adequate staffing and training,” VA physician Katherine Mitchell told 60 Minutes, regarding the prolonged waiting times.

Poor quality of care wasn’t the only preventable cause of death because of failures on the part of the VA. In Pittsburg, six veterans died of Legionnaires disease – an infection caused by a certain type of bacteria – while the hospital had known its water system was contaminated.

In an effort to restore confidence in the VA, McDonald’s news release includes a promise of comprehensive, “long term” reform. However, the plan has drawn very little outside support.

“After years of failure, missed deadlines and disappointment at VA, our veterans will only celebrate when we see results,” said Paul Rieckhoff, the chief executive of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “IAVA members won’t be satisfied until the mission is accomplished.”

Now, months after the scandal surfaced, the majority of those who contributed to the VA’s failures are still on the department payroll. Only 35 workers are slated to lose their jobs, while McDonald said 1,000 workers had been violating the values of the VA.

“New plans, initiatives and organizational structures are all well and good, but they will not produce their intended results until VA rids itself of the employees who have shaken veterans’ trust in the system,” said, Jeff Miller, House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman. “So far, VA hasn’t done that.”

McDonald’s agency maintains that the current plan is “just beginning.”

Contact reporter Adam Gibson at adam.gibson@richmond.edu

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