VA secretary embraces ‘personal calling’ of serving veterans

by Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

4/13/2009 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki is a no-nonsense leader who wants veterans to measure his performance and that of the department he leads through concrete results, not rhetoric.

“Veterans have been given a lot of promises over a bunch of years, and I have assured them that they should measure us by our accomplishments, not just the promises,” Secretary Shinseki said.

“We have some things to deliver,” he added.

Less than two months into the job, Secretary Shinseki is focused on transforming VA into a “people-centric, results-oriented and forward-looking” department.

“We have committed to putting veterans at the focal point of all that we do here,” he said. “There is only one reason we exist, and that is to ensure that our veterans who have earned benefits and services get them quickly, and that it is accessible to them. It is logical, it is fair and consistent.”

For Secretary Shinseki, a 38-year Soldier who retired in 2003 as Army chief of staff, the mission is extremely personal.

Many of the veterans he now serves were “the truly unbelievable heroes of World War II” who returned from Europe and the Pacific to provide leadership for the United States, including the military, he said.

“We all stand on their shoulders,” Secretary Shinseki said. “We do things today professionally that they taught us how to do.”

But other veterans under VA’s charge served alongside Secretary Shinseki or under his command — in Vietnam and elsewhere during his military career. For others, Secretary Shinseki was the one who issued the deployment orders that sent them into harm’s way.

“So this is an opportunity for me to give back to the ones I went to war with, and the men and women I sent to war,” he said. “It’s a way to give back, and I am honored to have that opportunity.”

Secretary Shinseki’s vision of giving back to America’s veterans got a solid endorsement yesterday as President Barack Obama, flanked by Secretary Shinseki and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, reiterated his commitment to the nation’s veterans.


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