A must read: This Washington Post explainer (“How the VA developed its culture of cuver-ups“) today about the history of the problems that led to this morning’s resignation of Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.
Shinseki’s departure, the Post writes, “is unlikely to solve the VA’s broader problem — a bureaucracy that had been taught, over time, to hide its problems from Washington. Indeed, as President Obama said, one of the agency’s key failings was that bad news did not reach Shinseki’s level at all.
“This is an ironic development: Until recently, the VA had been seen as a Washington success story. In the 1990s, reformers had cut back on its middle management and started using performance data so managers at the top could keep abreast of problems at the bottom.
“Then that success began to unravel.”
The Post also recounts a major problem at the VA within its earliest days as the Veteran’s Bureau. The problem was an “audcacious crook” — the man whom President Warren Harding appointed to run the bureau.
Historians say that same man, Charles Forbes, was found with Harding’s hands wrapped around his neck after his crooked misdeeds came to light.
“You yellow rat! You double-crossing bastard!” Harding was saying, according to historians. When he noticed the visitor, he let go of Forbes’s neck.
Forbes was eventually convicted of bribery and conspiracy. But afterward, the VA’s next leaders built in layers of bureaucracy and paperwork — to be sure that nobody would ever have the same freedom to steal.