FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE:
President Barack Obama announced Friday morning that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki has resigned after being under intensifying fire regarding allegations that VA facilities manipulated records to hide the fact that veterans were waiting periods of time for medical care.
Shinseki, a retired four-star general, appointed to lead the VA in 2009, became the target of bipartisan resignation calls after an interim report by the VA inspector general found a “systemic” problem at VA facilities nationwide.
Obama made the announcement in a statement from the White House after meeting with Shinseki. He said he had accepted Shinseki’s resignation “with regret” but agreed with him that it was time for new leadership at the VA.
Our earlier reports follow:
(Wednesday night update:)
Late Wednesday night, U.S. Reps. Ann Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter, followed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in the wake of a scathing VA Inspector General interim report.
“I have tremendous respect for General Shinseki and honor his service to this nation. He has worked with me to bring new veterans’ health care services to New Hampshire and has made important progress in reducing the claims backlog.
“However, it has become clear that after six years as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, General Shinseki has been unable to solve other fundamental problems that plague the agency. Today, after reading the Inspector General’s interim report, I am calling for General Shinseki’s resignation. It’s time for a forceful new leader to address the outrageous problems at the VA.”
“General Shinseki is a great man and a war hero, and I am grateful for his long service to our country and to our veterans. However, after seeing the report released today, I believe Secretary Shinseki should step down. We need new management at the VA to lean hard on wrongdoers and clean house wherever necessary. Most of our VA employees across the country care deeply about the men and women they serve and work hard, but there is an institutional dysfunction that requires a fresh look by new people.”
“This report, coupled with the VA’s gross failure to comply with the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee investigation into this matter, leads me to believe it is time for new leadership at the VA. I called on Secretary Shinseki to tender his resignation so a new acting secretary can take his place and work to immediately provide care for any veteran who is still waiting for health services.”
(Our earlier report follows.)
CONCORD — Three sitting Democratic U.S. senators called for Veterans Affairs Secretary Erik Shinseki to resign Wednesday after a scathing interim report on the Veterans Administration’s waiting list scandal was issued by the department’s inspector general.
The report confirmed excessive wait times for veterans needing care in Phoenix, Ariz., and serious systemic problems in the overall VA system.
While many GOP lawmakers have long called for Shinseki to resign, Wednesday’s report prompted Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado, John Walsh of Montana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina to do the same. Joining the call were Democratic candidates for the Senate Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa, Alison Lundrigan Grimes of Kentucky and Michelle Nunn of Georgia.
At least seven Democratic U.S. House members have also called for Shinseki to resign.
The New Hampshire Republican Party, through executive committee member and Air Force veteran Jim Coburn, renewed its demand that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster call for Shinseki to resign.
“It is disappointing that Senator Shaheen, Congresswoman Shea-Porter and Congresswoman Kuster continue to take orders from the White House and refuse to call for new leadership at the VA,” said Coburn. “Their silence on this issue reminds Granite Staters that they are rubber stamps for the Obama Administration. This isn’t a partisan issue, and it’s time for Shaheen, Shea-Porter and Kuster to join Senator Kelly Ayotte in calling for a new secretary.”
Republican Ayotte said, “Such treatment of our veterans, who have served and sacrificed so much for our nation, is shameful, and the administration’s response so far has been totally inadequate. Fixing these serious problems must be the administration’s highest priority – starting with new leadership at the VA. The Justice Department must also thoroughly investigate evidence of criminal conduct and prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”
Ayotte is cosponsoring the VA Management Accountability Act, which, according to her office, would make it easier to fire or demote senior VA employees based on performance. The House approved companion legislation last week by a vote of 390 to 33. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has not yet brought the VA bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
All major GOP candidates for federal office have called for Shinseki’s resignation.