V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki Resigns
Weeks after a scandal over wait time cover-ups exploded
This item has been updated to add more background and quote responses to Shinseki's resignation.
President Barack Obama announced today that Veterans Affairs (V.A.) Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned. Shinseki has been under fire since revelations began last month of alleged intentional cover-ups of wait times in veterans hospitals around the country. The call for his resignation had become bipartisan ahead of midterm elections in November. Shinseki apologized to some veterans earlier today and met with the president about an hour before his resignation was announced.
An aide for President Obama said the president was "madder than hell" about the V.A. scandal eleven days ago, and Shinseki himself said he was angry at a Senate V.A. Committee hearing two weeks ago. Obama spoke out himself later, saying some of the problems have been known about for decades and promising accountability. Despite that, liberals have been using the same V.A. system for years as an example of successful government-run healthcare.
Below, President Obama announces Shineski's resignation:
Where do things currently stand with the VA care scandal?
An interim report (pdf) from the VA Office of the Inspector General released this week substantiates the allegations that veterans have received significant delays seeking care at their medical facility in Phoenix. The report determined that veterans seeking care in Phoenix waited an average of 115 days for their first primary medical appointment with doctors, even though the hospital claimed an average wait of only 24 days. More than 1,700 veterans had requested appointments but had not been formally added to the waiting list, thus preventing the clock from starting to calculate how long they waited. A former clinic director in Phoenix claims that 40 veterans have died there while waiting for treatment.
Reuters noted that probes are now active at 42 different VA sites across the country and added that several members of Congress cheered on Shinseki's resignation:
"The denial of care to our veterans is a national disgrace and it's fitting that the person who oversees the Department of Veterans Affairs has accepted responsibility for this growing scandal and resigned," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Representative Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat, said: "Obviously General Shinseki came to the conclusion that he'd lost the confidence, at least, of Congress. He stepped aside so the debate could be about fixing the VA as opposed to his status."