Every congressman and their mothers’ calls for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down worked. Shinseki resigned today, after publicly apologizing for the “indefensible” conduct of VA leadership at medical centers in Phoenix and beyond, amid a growing scandal over wait times and bureaucratic cover-ups. “With considerable regret, I accepted,” President Obama said after meeting with Shinseki at the White House this morning.
“We don’t have time for distractions,” he added. “We need to fix the problem.”
“I want to reiterate: He is a very good man,” Obama said. Shinseki, however, “could not carry out the next stages of reform without being a distraction … I regret that he has to resign under these circumstances.”
Last month, reports in the Arizona Republic, spurred by a whistle-blower, claimed that as many as 40 veterans died while awaiting treatment at a VA hospital in Phoenix, leading to similar complaints around the country. A subsequent inspector general’s report found that while wait times were listed at an average of 24 days, the reality was more like 115. The issue, unsurprisingly, was soon politicized.
“This is my administration, I always take responsibility for whatever happens,” Obama said today. “The VA is a big organization that has had problems for a long time.”