Friday, May 30, 2014

Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki Steps Down Over Ongoing VA Scandal

A day after an internal nationwide audit of Veteran's Affairs facilities presented to President Obama showed widespread dysfunction and putting injured veterans on clandestine waiting lists to mask length wait times, VA secretary Eric Shinseki announced his resignation on Friday.

The president announced that Shinseki would resign after they met at the White House and he received an update on an internal review of the problems at the VA. The review showed the problems were not limited to just a few facilities, Obama said, adding: "It's totally unacceptable. Our veterans deserve the best."

On the heels of those and other findings, Obama said, "Secretary Shinseki offered me his own resignation -- with considerable regret, I accepted."

He said Shinseki told him he did not want to be a distraction. "I agree," Obama said. "We don't have time for distractions. We need to fix the problem."

The president had faced mounting calls from members of both parties to remove Shinseki; those calls accelerated after a damning inspector general report on Wednesday. Shinseki suffered another blow on Friday when Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a former top VA official, called for her former boss' resignation.

Shinseki's departure is likely to calm the political storm, but only briefly. Congressional critics of VA leadership voiced support for the decision on Friday, but urged the administration to quickly get to the root of the problems with VA workers lying about patient wait times.

As recently as a month ago, press reports of systematic problems at the Phoenix, AZ VA center began circulating and it seemed as though the Obama administration wouldn't part ways Shinseki, who was appointed in January 2009. Despite calls from the American Legion and both Democrat and Republican members of Congress, Senate Veteran's Affairs secretary Bernie Sanders [Socialist- Vermont] blamed the mounting pressure for Shinseki to step down on industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch and said in an interview that he hoped Shinseki would remain as the VA secretary.

The findings of the VA's internal audit indicated that employees had been instructed to intentionally misrepresent wait periods for veterans and that the desired 14-day maximum waiting time for appointments was untenable.

In late April, CNN aired an interview with a whistleblower from the Phoenix, AZ VA Medical Center who claimed that some patients were put on waiting lists for appointments with the intent of delaying any substantive medical care until those patients had died- some waiting more then 20 months for care. The whistleblower said that at least 40 had died as the staff manipulated reports on waiting times to make them look more efficient.

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