All soldiers want to advance to victory, but they also know the value of a sensible retreat — none more so than Gen. Eric Shinseki, the besieged secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department who resigned Friday at the White House.
It was time to go, whether he was forced out or realized his hopeless position. With scandals in the agency mounting, Gen. Shinseki would have not done anybody good by staying longer — not himself, not President Barack Obama, who initially stood by him. All that could be done was to apologize for his failures and step down.
The dysfunction at the VA has become more evident in recent days. An interim inspector general’s report found that government officials falsified records to hide the length of time vets had to wait for medical appointments — and the problem went beyond the troubles at Phoenix. It was a “systemic problem nationwide.”
Indeed, U.S. Reps. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, and Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, on Friday jointly called for an independent audit of the Pittsburgh VA because they believe that more than 700 veterans have been waiting for medical appointments, some since 2012.
Of course, the VA has been big, bureaucratic and problem-prone for years through administrations both Democratic and Republican. It has received more vets from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the very time the political impetus in Congress is to spend less money.
A new secretary must be chosen, but maybe it’s also time to consider a new model for how the VA should operate.