The resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki hit close to home for a San Diego-based couple who knows all too well about the lack of care for veterans at the VA hospital in Phoenix at the center of the national military scandal.
Howard and Jean Somers’ son, Daniel Somers, served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan long as a National Guardsman.
When he returned to the U.S. from combat, he was suffering from a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. However, his parents said Daniel was unable to get adequate care at the Phoenix VA.
Nearly a year ago, Daniel took his own life.
Today, the Somers’ reaction is mixed about the resignation of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The parents said they believe many government officials were aware of the widespread troubles plaguing the VA health care system long before the investigation that led to Shinseki's resignation.
“Is this really going to help? I mean, you are going to have to bring someone new in who is going to have to get up to speed, but on the other hand has he really provided the leadership and the initiative that has been needed to fix the broken system?” said Howard.
The Somers have vowed to seek reform following the death of their son.
The parents have been making trips to Washington, D.C. – one 10 months ago – to talk with members of Congress about the issues at the VA. They believe it is the post 9/11 veterans who have sounded the call for change in a system that has been dysfunctional for years.
“A lot of these were known issues when we went to Washington 10 months ago people were just shaking their head yes -- so it wasn't like these weren’t known it’s just that there was not enough people saying do something, do something, do something, and now there are, “ said Jean.
“You need the critical mass and it appears that we're at a perfect storm right now and hopefully we will see some significant change, but there are a lot of barriers to change,” added Howard.
The Somers also run an organization and website, Operation Engage America, to help other families and soldiers dealing with PTSD. On June 7 they are bringing together experts and resources on PTSD to San Diego. The event is open to the public.
Shinseki's resignation comes two days after a scathing internal report found broad and deep-seated problems in the health care system that provides care to about 6.5 million veterans annually.
The scandal first surfaced when a whistleblower alleged that as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for appointments in a VA hospital in Phoenix, NBC News reported.