ALBANY, N.Y. – At least one local VFW commander believes Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation is in the best interest of veterans.
Master Chief Petty Officer Gene Ratigliano said his own experience with the VA has been excellent, but he believes the number of injured service men and women returning from war has crippled the VA’s resources and created waiting periods that he thinks are unacceptable for veterans.
Ratigliano is the VFW District 3 Commander. He said issues with the VA have been growing.
“It’s really been a processing issue over a number of years,” he said.
He believes the wait times and processing times are insufficient.
“It’s frustration,” he said. “Basically frustration with the waiting time; frustration with the application procedure.”
Ratigliano believes those issues have arisen since the recent wars.
“The VA was probably not geared up to handle the number of injuries and casualties that we have coming from these two wars,” he said.
And while he doesn’t directly blame Shinseki, he does think Shinseki was in charge and therefore responsible for any oversight.
“I’m sure that Secretary Shinseki was trying to do the best job he could. He’s certainly an honorable veteran,” he said. “I think we need to concentrate on getting the problems corrected, and it’s probably in the best interest that he resigned today.”
Ratigliano hopes the VA can hold those accountable for their mistakes and get wounded warriors the easy access to care they need and deserve.
“We have members coming back without arms, without legs, with TBI,” he said. “Those are very sustained injuries that should be – I don’t want to say rubber stamped – but they should be injuries that should be very easily identified.”
He thinks improved communication between military departments might be the answer.
“Between the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration, if they were all talking on the same level, processing would probably move a lot smoother,” he said.
Ratigliano said he believes the primary focus right now should be making sure the VA can move on, overcome its issues and take care of veterans.