This 'n' That

Reprinted from PN January 2012

Andy Rooney was a great patriot and lover of America who shared his opinions. VA Secretary Shinseki has made headway in transforming his department's attitude.

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In a previous editorial (“In My Opinion,”  June 2011), from which we received some good feedback, I attempted to mimic the unique style of Andy Rooney.

I wrote about his ability to bore into the core of an issue without trying to paint it nicely or paper it prettily. He was one of the last of a great generation of journalists such as Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, and John Chancellor. They were journalists who reported the news instead of trying to make it (which takes place too much today).

Rooney retired on October 2, 2011, and died one month later on November 4 at age 92. He became well known for his segment “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney,” which appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes. Rooney had cogent and pointed comments about particular issues he thought needed discussion on this program from 1978 to 2011. 

Why am I writing about this unique man?  Rooney was a veteran, one of The Greatest Generation, a book Tom Brokaw wrote chronicling the sacrifices of the generation of World War II. Rooney was drafted in August 1941 and began writing for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, in 1942. He served in the army until the end of the war. Rooney didn’t stay in the headquarters area but was frequently in the war’s hot spots.

Whether or not you agreed with his positions on issues, we have lost a great patriot and lover of America who stated his opinions. He kind of reminded me of a sophisticated Archie Bunker.

Well, January is now upon us again and another year has passed. Having reviewed what has transpired during the last year in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), I think overall Secretary Shinseki has made some headway transforming the attitude in the system. We all have run into the problem of VA employees who make life harder for us instead of easier. It seems to me his program, ICARE (Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence), is making headway across the board, whether in the benefits area or in healthcare, and that things are speedier and some of the roadblocks have disappeared or at least diminished. 

After watching a series of VA leaders from when the title was the “Administrator of Veteran’s Affairs” to when it finally became a “Secretary” and a member of the president’s cabinet, I believe Shinseki is the first one (in my memory) who has been a retired four-star-rank officer. 

Omar Bradley was greatly admired for changing VA during his tenure. Since I was injured in 1973, Shinseki is only the second senior military officer who has run the agency. Looking at what Bradley did and what Shinseki is doing makes me wonder if perhaps one of the requirements for the office should be that the person be of general or admiral rank. Men or women of that seniority know how to manage large numbers of people, are not intimidated easily, and don’t put up with much foolishness. They are also not reluctant to replace incompetence and poor performance.  

This is a change in the “good old boy” attitude that has existed too long within VA. Over the years I have watched the transfer of incompetent hospital administrators and senior managers from one station to another. That doesn’t improve things; it just moves poor performance and management to another station, with veterans at the new location suffering. Generals don’t do that. They fire people.

We received some good feedback on the article on fee basis (“Care Alternative,” October 2011). We referred some of the comments we received to the PVA Veterans Benefits Department (see You Said It, p. xx). Associate Executive Director Sherman Gillums will make sure folks who are qualified and haven’t received what they are entitled to will get it.

Again, if you need help, don’t sit quietly by and suffer. Call the PVA National Office (800-424-8200), and the appropriate department’s staff will do their best for you. President Bill Lawson and Executive Director Homer Townsend will make sure it happens. 

We at PVA Publications wish the best of the New Year to you and yours; may you have a profitable and healthy 2012. 


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