The first head has rolled in the expanding wait-list fraud scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ironically, it belongs to the man who testified in the Senate that he wasn’t sure wait-list fraud was a firing offense:
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said he accepted the resignation of his top health official on Friday, a day after the two testified before Congress about a growing scandal over deadly healthcare delays for veterans.
“Today, I accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, undersecretary for health in the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Shinseki said in a statement.
In part, this may have been because Petzel wasn’t terribly good at his job:
Dr. Petzel testified before Congress last month that he had found no sign of the alleged list in the early stages of the investigation.
“To date, we found no evidence of a secret list and we have found no patients who have died because they’ve been on a wait list,” he said at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on April 30. “If the allegations are true, they’re absolutely unacceptable.”
Since then, investigators have found evidence that the VA was made aware of the problem in March 2013, and again last November. That leaves Petzel in danger of an obstruction charge, especially since dozens of veterans have died waiting for service in at least one of these offices. As Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) asked at the time NBC reported the new timeline, it also raises the question of whether Shinseki knew about it and lied to Congress in his testimony — or was so incompetent that he missed the signs twice.
On the other hand, we now have more accountability at the VA than we did at State with Benghazi, or at Treasury with the IRS scandal. I’d guess that some administration officials are getting very worried about this particular probe.
Update: Worth noting, too, is that Petzel was already scheduled to retire later this year.