- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2014

Senate Assistant Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin on Thursday defended President Obama’s hesitation to fire Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki over the mismanagement scandal at VA hospitals.

“If General Shinseki were gone tomorrow, the challenge at the VA would still be there,” Mr. Durbin, illinois Democrat, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It is easy to point fingers of blame and say if one person goes, that will solve the problem. It is more than that. It is an overwhelming challenge to a system, but a promise that we’ve made that it is going to work.”

Mr. Durbin said Mr. Obama had been “respectful of Gen. Shinseki’s contribution to this country.”

He called Mr. Shinseki, ​who was seriously wounded in the Vietnam war, an “amazing man. I respect him very much.”

Still, Mr. Durbin vowed that he would “put Shinseki on the spot” when he met with him later Thursday in his Capitol Hill office to demand answers about what is going on at Illinois VA hospitals.

Mr. Durbin echoed Mr. Obama’s remarks Wednesday that he would hold people accountable once a thorough federal investigation into the problems is done, though Republicans and even some Democratic lawmakers criticized that as showing insufficient urgency to address the problems.

The Veterans Affairs Inspector General’s Office this week expanded its investigation to 26 facilities over allegations of secret waiting lists and other bookeeping manipulation to conceal long delays in treatment for patients.

The secret waiting lists have been blamed for 40 deaths of patents at a VA hospital in Phoenix.

“If we find that that has been the case, we have to make dramatic changes, and these changes could go all the way to the top,” he said.