Eric Shinseki is out! Obama sacks Veterans Affairs secretary

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President Obama accepted the resignation Friday of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, amid a burgeoning scandal over delayed care for veterans at VA hospitals.

In a hastily arranged statement after meeting with Mr. Shinseki at the White House, the president said he accepted the resignation “with considerable regret” and admitted that the decision was partly political.

SEE ALSO: Boehner: Shinseki resignation ‘really changes nothing’

The president said Mr. Shinseki told him “that he could not carry out the next stages of reform without being a distraction himself.”

“And so, you know, my assessment was, unfortunately, that he was right,” the president told reporters. “We’ve also got to deal with Congress and you guys.”

The president said VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, who has been in his post only three months, will take over on an interim basis.

The scandal became public several weeks ago, but the calls for Mr. Shinseki’s resignation among Democrats began in earnest Wednesday when a VA Inspector General’s report that showed the scope of the problem at the VA hospital in Phoenix had affected about 1,700 veterans.

On Friday morning, Mr. Shinseki and deputy White House chief of staff Rob Nabors delivered more bad news to Mr. Obama in a meeting in the Oval Office: They confirmed the problems affect VA facilities nationwide. Mr. Shinseki then offered his resignation.

“The misconduct has not been limited to a few VA facilities, but many across the country — totally unacceptable,” Mr. Obama said a few minutes after his Cabinet member quit.

The president said Mr. Shinseki had already begun to fire “many of the people responsible,” including senior leaders at the Phoenix VA.

“He’s canceled any possible performance bonuses this year for VHA senior executives, and he has ordered the VA to personally contact every veteran in Phoenix waiting for appointments to get them the care that they need and that they deserve,” the president said.

Despite Mr. Obama’s protestations that he and Mr. Shinseki were unaware of the scope of the problems, the preliminary IG report on Wednesday noted that there have been 18 government reports since 2005 highlighting delays of service at VA facilities. White House press secretary Jay Carney said the alleged efforts by some VA officials to conceal the delays contributed to the lack of awareness by the president and his Cabinet.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, praised Mr. Shinseki, a Vietnam veteran, for a “lifetime of honorable service.” But he said the resignation was fitting because the problems at the VA are a “national disgrace.”

“This change of leadership is a meaningful initial step to meet our solemn obligations, but what’s still needed is an agreement by the president and his allies in Congress to join Republicans in legislation that would help to fix this system that has so failed our veterans,” Mr. McConnell said.

As he has in several past failures of competence in his administration, Mr. Obama vented frustration that the “bad news” about wait times at VA hospitals had not reached him sooner.

“This was not something that we were hearing when I was traveling around the country, the particular issue of scheduling [hospital appointments],” Mr. Obama said. “I’m going to be interested in finding out … how is it that in a number of these facilities, if in fact you have veterans who are waiting too long for an appointment, that that information didn’t surface sooner, so that we could go ahead and fix it.”

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