LOS ANGELES – From West Point Cadet to Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Eric K. Shinseki was promoted to the top of his profession and retired with revered accolades. Then he was appointed Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and failed greater than any of his six predecessors.
How could that happen?
Just because you’re a basketball superstar in the NBA doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a MLB baseball superstar. Ask Michael Jordan.
In 1969, Dr. Laurence J. Peter co-authored a best-selling book titled “The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong” in which the central theme is about competent people being promoted or reaching their level of incompetence. It explains that everyone in a hierarchy — from the office intern to the CEO, from the low-level civil servant to a nation’s president — will inevitably rise to his or her level of incompetence.
The Peter Principle offers an insightful management theory revealing how the normal selection of a candidate for a certain job is based solely on their abilities in a current position rather than on the necessary abilities required for the proposed position.
As a primary example, an individual can rise to become a company’s top salesperson but when he or she is promoted to sales manager, it’s not unusual for them to fail because they’ve been promoted to a level of incompetence, i.e., a position in which they’re unqualified.
And so it is with Eric K. Shinseki who was Chief of Staff of U.S. Army and then appointed Secretary of the VA where he reached his own level of incompetence and failed at running the second largest bureaucracy in Federal Government.
Correspondingly, just because someone is a competent head nurse doesn’t mean they will make an equally competent hospital administrator.
And so it is with Donna M. Beiter who was Associate Director for Nursing and Patient Care Services and then promoted to Executive Director of the Los Angeles VA where she reached her own level of incompetence and failed at managing the largest VA in the nation with nearly 400 acres of land and facilities to oversee while managing 5,000 employees and a billion-dollar a year budget.
Thus, it was no coincidence that General Shinseki and Ms. Beiter became co-Defendants in a landmark ACLU lawsuit accusing them of misappropriating Federal VA property with non-Veteran entities for non-Veteran use.
Nor was it a coincidence that on August 29, 2013, District Judge S. James Otero entered a Federal Judgment against co-Defendants Shenseki and Beiter for nine separate real estate deals under their authority at the Los Angeles VA that were adjudicated in Federal Court as “unauthorized by law and therefore void.”
This is the personification of two seemingly competent individuals rising to their level of incompetence and the substantiated results of their failed management and misconduct.
In spite of being adjudged in Federal Court for illegal use of Federal VA property, the co-Defendants continue to maintain the same top-level Federal Government jobs they are unqualified to uphold.
Moreover, you’d have to be living under a rock not to know about the alleged mismanagement and misconduct at more than 25 VA hospitals across the nation under the stewardship of Secretary Eric Shinseki.
On May 15, the Secretary testified before a Senate Hearing and declared, “I take any allegations about patient safety or employee misconduct very seriously.”
What about his own misconduct that is not an “allegation” but an “adjudication” in Federal Court with a Federal Judgment for illegal use of Federal VA property? What about his co-Defendant Donna Beiter, an entrusted Federal employee who was also adjudged for the same illegal activity?
It’s obvious that Secretary Shinseki does not take his own misconduct seriously even though the illegal use of the Federal VA property entrusted under his fiduciary duty was exclusively deeded in 1888 to be permanently maintained as a National Home for war-injured and homeless Veterans.
Today, Los Angeles is our Nation’s capital for homeless Veterans while this is the largest VA property in the nation.
In November 2009, Secretary Shinseki promised to end all Veteran homelessness within five years.
He has six months to fulfill his promise.
Instead of settling the Federal Judgment and building new housing in accordance with the Deed of 1888 that would greatly reduce Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles, he Appealed the Judgment which is contrary to his promise of ending Veteran homelessness by November.
Regarding the current allegations of misconduct at numerous other VA’s, the Secretary proclaimed: “If any allegations under review are substantiated, we will act.”
Does he mean “act” like he did when the Federal Judgment was substantiated against him and his co-Defendant by a U.S. District Judge and he shamelessly Appealed it at the at the added expense of the American taxpayer and prolonged misery of tens of thousands of disabled and destitute Veterans who are homeless and need to be safely housed and cared for on the very land that was illegally leased to non-Veteran entities for non-Veteran use.
Make no mistake, Secretary Shinseki is in a full state of denial when it comes to accepting responsibility and accountability for his failed leadership and misconduct.
His own denial should not come as any surprise since denial is the watchword for the second largest bureaucracy in Federal government that he was entrusted to lead and provide quality healthcare for the men and women who wear our nation’s Uniform.
Denial is the VA’s modus operandi that created alleged “wait lists” of abuse and neglect that were perpetrated against disabled war Veterans and subsequently became known as “death lists” at numerous VA’s across America, all under General Shinseki’s command.
Denial is the modus operandi at the Los Angeles VA under Donna Beiter’s misconduct when Vietnam Veterans of America Region 9 was recently put on a three-month “wait list” for a land-use permit to hold their annual Veterans Summer Celebration and Picnic on VA grounds, while U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was granted immediate permission to hold an illegal fundraiser and political speaking engagement at the VA Wadsworth Theater
How disgraceful for a West Point Graduate and retired Four Star Commanding General to have no control or command over the men and women who are employed under his authority and who are supposed to be looking out for the best interests of his fellow Veterans.
But General Shinseki has nobody to blame but himself since he defiantly refuses to accept responsibility and resign from a position he was never qualified to hold while smugly boasting that he “serves at the pleasure of the President.”
No General, you “serve at the respect of our nation’s Military Veterans” and you failed.
In sum, failure to admit failure is the greatest failure of all.
How scandalous for a Graduate of the United States Military Academy who failed to uphold West Point’s noble creed of “Duty, Honor, Country” even after being honored as a “Distinguished Graduate” for being an exemplar of “those three hallowed words” as General MacArthur so reverently referred to in his famed “Duty, Honor, Country” speech in 1962, and Eric “Ric” Shinseki was one of the few privileged West Point Cadets to witness of the General’s famed oration.
In 2009, after being appointed Secretary of the VA, General Eric Shinseki was honored as a Distinguished Graduate of West Point:
“Throughout a lifetime of dedication to our nation, as a Soldier and civilian, General Eric Ken Shinseki has exemplified the ideals of West Point: Duty, Honor, Country. His military career spanned over 38 years, and his service to our nation continues still. He is a visionary and humble leader who has proven again and again that he deserves the title “Distinguished Graduate.”
How could things go so wrong for an individual with such a distinguished Military pedigree and beholden to the code of “Duty, Honor, Country”?
On December 7, 2008, the West Point graduate and former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army accepted President-elect Barack Obama’s nomination as the seventh Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
This nomination was made on the 67th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor as the newly elected President stressed the importance of the new position General Shinseki would hold. President-elect Obama proclaimed: “We owe it to all our veterans to honor them as we honored our Greatest Generation. Not just with words, but with deeds.”
General Shinseki accepted the nomination by declaring: “I can think of no higher responsibility than ensuring that the men and women that who have served our nation in uniform are treated with the care and respect that they have earned.”
John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America called the Shinseki selection “a promising choice.”
Paul Reickhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America proclaimed “This is a big name and it shows that he [Obama] is not going to treat the Veterans Affairs Secretary as a low priority.”
On January 21, 2009, in a White House ceremony, retired General Eric Shinseki was sworn in as the seventh Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Clearly, a vast majority of Veterans held high expectations that General Shinseki would be the person who would turn the VA around for the greater good of our Veterans, and under the noble banner of “Duty, Honor, Country.”
On January 29, 2009, I also joined the chorus of fellow Veterans who held high expectations for the decorated, disabled Vietnam War Veteran.
Just eight days after General Shinseki took over as Secretary of the VA, I sent him a congratulatory email regarding his distinguished Military career while simultaneously forewarning him about the mismanagement and misconduct at the Los Angeles VA, the largest under his new command.
It’s important to point out that this email was sent approximately eleven months after the establishment of the peaceful and non-violent “Veterans Revolution” to bring an end to the rampant mismanagement, malfeasance and misappropriation of Veterans property at the Los Angeles National Veterans Home, aka the VA Greater West Los Angeles Healthcare System, and to stop the abuse and maltreatment of our fellow Veterans who are disabled, disadvantaged and homeless.
Here are some excerpts from my email to newly appointed Secretary Shinseki with the Subject titled “Duty, Honor, Country”:
General, thank you for your Honorable Duty to our Country with such a distinguished Military career. And thank you for undertaking the enormous responsibility as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. This is certainly a very great challenge and I can assure that Veterans are very optimistic that you will bring about the real “change” that President Obama promised during his campaigning.
[VA Greater West Los Angeles Healthcare System] is not looking out for the best interests of our Veterans. This was underscored on May 31, 2006 when I first read the words “Beauty, Honor, Country” engraved in stone on Veterans property at the corner of Wilshire and San Vicente Boulevards in West Los Angeles.
You sir, being a West Point Graduate, know what “Duty, Honor, Country” truly mean to you and your fellow Graduates, and the impact General MacArthur’s speech has made on all who have ever read it.
As you know, right at the outset of General MacArthur’s speech, he prophesied: “The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.”
And sure enough, his prophecy came true right next to my own community and on Veterans sacred property. This plagiarism and denigration against the most noble watchword of America was orchestrated and implemented by Veterans Park Conservancy (VPC), which is not a Veterans organization but a special-interest homeowner’s group that is hell-bent on confiscating Veterans property and converting it into a public park, and always under the false guise of honoring our Veterans with a ‘Veterans Park.”
It’s important for you to know that VPC also has a 2O-year, 10-year option “sharing agreement” with the VA for 16 acres of Veterans sacred land at the corner of Wilshire and San Vicente Boulevards to build a “public park.” This parcel of land is considered to be one of the most valuable on the West Coast and worth an estimated $1 billion, yet Veterans will receive absolutely nothing but an invasion of noise and intrusiveness while disabled Veterans are trying to convalesce in quietude.
It’s also important for you to know that VPC hoodwinked the VA into donating $1 million of Veterans seriously needed healthcare money to help them build a “majestic wrought iron fence” to “beautify” the entryway into Brentwood, and Veterans want that money returned.
This shameless facade serves no purpose other than to enhance the property values of local homeowners while homeless Veterans sleep alongside this pretentious fence.
On behalf of America’s Veterans, we are asking you to do the right thing and rescind the “sharing agreement” with VPC, recoup the $1 million plus-interest fence money from them, and respectfully return this sacred land as it was specifically deeded on March 3, 1888, “to be permanently maintained as a National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.”
On February 5, 2009, I received a response email from Debi Bevins, Director, Client Relations & Executive Projects; Office of the Secretary Department of Veterans Affairs:
“Your email to Secretary Shinseki has been received. At the direction of the Secretary, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) was instructed to inquire into all the concerns raised in your correspondence. To continue to provide you the best possible communication on matters relating to the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (GLAHS), we encourage you to continue working with the local facility.”
General Shinseki was forewarned from the get-go about the mismanagement and misconduct at the Los Angeles VA but he was not going to listen to the ground troops of the Veterans Revolution.
Instead, he listened to Los Angeles VA Executive Director Don Beiter, who is not a Veteran, and he ended up being a co-Defendant with her in the ACLU lawsuit which proved that the “sharing agreement” VPC held with the VA was one of the nine illegal real estate deals that were adjudicated in Federal Court as “unauthorized by law and therefore void.”
As a result, District Judge S. James Otero entered a Federal Judgment against Defendants Shinseki and Beiter.
Secretary Shinseki brazenly and selfishly Appealed the Judgment. Make no mistake; the General’s Appeal of the Judgment is morally and legally indefensible.
On June 4, 2011, four days before the ACLU filed its landmark lawsuit against the VA Secretary and his Los Angeles VA director Donna Beiter, I sent one of numerous emails to Secretary Shinseki requesting “regime change” at the Los Angeles VA.
The email outlined and summarized the mismanagement, malfeasance and misconduct of top-level bureaucrats at the Los Angeles VA and ended with:
This is to respectfully request … nay, to adamantly demand that you immediately terminate the aforementioned VA bureaucrats, or that you immediately tender your resignation for the greater good of America’s Military Veterans.
On June 20, 2011, the email was published on Veterans Today as an open letter to the Secretary.
Over a period of 5 ½ years and numerous emails and publications seeking “change” at the largest VA in the nation, not once did Secretary Shinseki ever respond, make a change or accept any responsibility. Instead, it was always dismissive and defiant towards the Old Veterans Guard while kowtowing to wealthy, powerful and special interest non-Veteran entities.
Consider the current fiasco involving more than 25 VA’s across America accused of alleged misconduct. There’s an old axiom: “Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.” And this is precisely the Obama-Shineki “wait and see” course of action.
Make no mistake; current matters are bad enough for our war-injured and homeless Veterans and we cannot allow it to get any worse.
From the outset including the email three years ago, et al., we called for regime change at the Los Angeles VA and Secretary Shinseki ignored us. As a result, he ended up as co-Defendant in a Federal lawsuit that earned him an embarrassing Federal Judgment for illegal use of Federal VA property at the expense of disabled homeless Veterans.
Thus, General Shinseki refused to stand up against the wealthy homeowner group that manipulated an illegal public park “sharing agreement,” a million dollars for a pretentious fence to beautify the entryway into their community, and shamefully desecrated and engraved “Beauty, Honor, Country” on VA property to advertise their own mission statement.
Accordingly, because of his own failure to defend the creed he swore to uphold, it is only appropriate and befitting (not desecration), to label General Shinseki’s tenure as the seventh Secretary of the VA to be “Duty, Honor, Failure.”
When the ACLU sued Secretary Shinseki for misappropriating Veterans property and VPC was listed as one of the nine real estate deals being litigated, he aided and abetted the homeowner group by directing the Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorneys to challenge the lawsuit.
When they lost and a Judgment confirmed that VPC has an illegal real estate deal with the VA, Secretary Shinseki directed the U.S. Attorney’s to Appeal the Judgment at the expense of the American taxpayer.
That misconduct alone exposes where Secretary Shinseki’s allegiance and loyalty really are, and it’s certainly not to West Point or disabled homeless Veterans and their legally deeded property.
Instead, Eric K. Shinseki is beholden to a wealthy and powerful homeowner group operating under the ruse of a Veterans organization.
Albert Einstein wisely noted: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” This is the embodiment of the massive problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the rightful solution to resolve these problems requires new leadership with new thinking to change all that has gone wrong.
President Obama needs to direct his Department of Justice / US Attorneys to immediately withdraw the Appeal of the Federal Judgment for illegal use of Veterans land at the Los Angeles VA and then declare a “State of Emergency” by immediately constructing proper housing and care for tens of thousands of disabled homeless Veterans on these sacred grounds.
President Obama needs to take command and implement an extensive house-cleaning at the Department of Veterans Affairs, beginning with the resignation or firing of General Shinseki because of his failed leadership.
Anything less than General Shinseki’s immediate removal from the VA shall be deemed as failed leadership on the part of President Obama.
God Bless America and the Veterans Resolution!