Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki vowed Thursday to stay in office and pledged to address the allegations of health care mismanagement that have besieged his agency and the Obama administration.
In a brief interview with reporters on Capitol Hill, Shinseki initially demurred when asked why he thought he should keep his job. When a reporter noted that he’s been “under the gun” all week, Shinseki quickly shot back: “This is not the first time.”
Shinseki is a former Army general who served two tours of duty in Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart after losing part of his right foot in battle. He was unanimously confirmed as VA secretary on the first day of Obama’s presidency in January 2009.
“I came here to do one thing, which is to take care of veterans and families,” he said. “We’ve run hard for five years; I think we have good things to show for it.”
But VA has come under scrutiny for the level of care it provides, after allegations that some department employees had falsified data to hide the long wait times some veterans had to endure before they could receive treatment. The uproar has produced many calls for Shinseki ‘s resignation, but the secretary said Thursday he had not offered his resignation to President Obama and had no plans to do so.
“Every day I come to work, the idea is to make things better for veterans,” he said. “This is Memorial Day weekend and we have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to remember . . . I happen to be a veteran and I understand what this is about and they deserve our best work. They’re going to get it.”
Shinseki’s declaration came as Democratic Senate candidates began calling for his ouster and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) signaled increased concern about the unfolding scandal. All week Shinseki has faced growing calls for his resignation from Democrats and Republicans as his own office, VA’s inspector general and congressional committees continue to probe whether staffers at some VA facilities had doctored records to cover up lengthy wait times and that some patients had died while waiting for care.
VA officials launched a nationwide audit of facilities this week to review allegations of doctored schedules and delayed medical care for veterans. Shinseki said the review is “about halfway through” and he expects to deliver initial findings to Obama next week. A full review by his office will be completed in June, he said. A separate investigation by VA’s inspector general isn’t expected to be completed until August.
Shinseki visited the Capitol for a 30-minute meeting with Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who had requested information on allegations involving VA facilities in Illinois and an update on the ongoing audits.
Source: Washington Post | Ed O’Keefe