DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: (To)go West, Young Man
Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West Jr., beset by harsh criticism in recent months, has informed the White House of his intention to step down, according to top administration officials. West initially drew the ire of veterans' groups "after the agency's budget took a huge hit" in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, and was "flat-lined" for five years. "West was a good soldier and he didn't put up a big stink," said one source. Then, this past February, the House Veterans Affairs Committee revealed that veterans health care spending in the Clinton budget fell $1 billion below the agency's request. One veterans activist said, "People were not happy with him (West) because he didn't step forward to champion veterans -- and that's his job." This spring, several representatives from veterans groups met with Vice President Al Gore to air their complaints about the secretary. West's departure would leave control of the VA to Deputy Secretary Hershel Gober, "whose candidacy for the top job two years ago collapsed amid allegations that he had made unwanted sexual advances toward two women and that the inquiry into those charges was bungled" (Chen, Los Angeles Times, 7/7). Last week, VA Undersecretary for Health Kenneth Kizer, the VA's top doctor, announced that he would not seek renomination (AHL, 6/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.