- Associated Press - Friday, May 30, 2014

He’s gone: Shinseki resigns under pressure - a ‘distraction’ in fixing VA system’s failings

WASHINGTON (AP) - Beset by growing evidence of patient delays and cover-ups, embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned from President Barack Obama’s Cabinet Friday, taking the blame for what he decried as a “lack of integrity” in the sprawling health care system for the nation’s military veterans.

Obama, under mounting pressure to act from fellow Democrats who are worried about political fallout in the fall elections, praised the retired four-star general and said he accepted his resignation with “considerable regret.” But the president, too, focused on increasingly troubling allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at veterans hospitals around the country.

Emerging from an Oval Office meeting with Shinseki, a stone-faced Obama said the secretary himself acknowledged he had become a distraction as the administration moves to address the VA’s troubles, and the president agreed with him.

“We don’t have time for distractions,” Obama said. “We need to fix the problem.”

One of Shinseki’s last acts as secretary was to hand the president an internal accounting that underscored just how big the problems have become. It showed that in some cases, VA schedulers have been pressured to fake information for reports to make waiting times for medical appointments look more favorable.

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Deputy secretary on job at VA since February will run department on temporary basis

WASHINGTON (AP) - After less than four months at the Veterans Affairs Department, Sloan D. Gibson suddenly finds himself in charge of fixing the problems that led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

“Sloan, I think, would be the first to acknowledge that he’s going to have a learning curve that he’s got to deal with,” President Barack Obama told reporters Friday after announcing that Gibson would replace Shinseki temporarily.

A career banker, Gibson was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 11 as deputy VA secretary, just weeks before allegations of long waits for doctor’s appointments at VA hospitals nationwide led to mounting bipartisan calls by lawmakers and others for Shinseki to resign.

Gibson, 61, came to the department after serving as president and chief executive officer of the USO, the nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and entertainment to U.S. troops and their families. During his five years at the USO, net fundraising grew by 90 percent and paid for an expansion of programs, according to Gibson’s bio on the VA website.

“I’m grateful that he is willing to take on this task,” Obama said, noting Gibson’s two decades of experience in the private and nonprofit sectors. “He, too, has devoted his life to serving our country and our veterans.”

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US officials say suicide bomber in Syria was an American citizen, a first in civil war

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