October 1999/November 1999
Note to VA Secretary West: Resign
By George C. Duggins
Silence is golden--unless you're a veteran of the armed forces of the
United States. American veterans have been waiting patiently since Secretary
of Veterans Affairs Togo D. West, Jr., assumed that office in early 1998
for the Secretary to fulfill his agency's mandate: "To care for him who
has borne the battle and for his widow and orphan.''
In a nutshell, Secretary West has failed miserably and it is time for
him to resign. The reasons are simple: an unconscionable and indefensible
lack of leadership that has resulted in the Secretary ignoring the needs
of the nation's veterans.
Secretary West is a very personable gentleman. He acts the part of VA
Secretary very well. He is a master of the "meet and greet'' and "grip
and grin'' ceremonial event. He is an accomplished public speaker who often
captivates audiences with his ability to speak without notes. In short,
Secretary West is a very skillful politician.
But he is not a veterans' advocate and is not at all well suited to
the job he holds.
America's veterans need a strong advocate for our issues. We do not
need a VA head who tells us what he thinks we want to hear.
Secretary West's unwillingness or inability to interact directly with
his own staff and with veterans who depend on his agency's service calls
into question his fitness to occupy the Cabinet-level position of VA Secretary.
His failure to stand up and ask for appropriate funding for veterans health-care
services and the deplorable record of his agency's claims adjudication
are two more reasons that he should step down.
"The willingness of any generation to serve their country is directly
related to their perception of how the previous generation of veterans
was treated.'' Those words of George Washington's should be a warning today
about the ramifications of the second-class treatment the VA is giving
to our veterans under Secretary West's leadership.
I urge all VVA members, AVVA members, all veterans, and all Americans
who are concerned about the state of the VA to act to now. Sit down and
write a letter or send an e-mail and express your feelings about this.
Write to the President, the Vice President, your Senators and House members.
Join me in asking them for the immediate removal of the Togo D. West, Jr.,
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
We must act now. We cannot sit idly by while the Secretary West eviscerates
the VA health-care system. To do so would go against VVA's cherished founding
principle that "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.''
E-mail us at TheVeteran@vva.org