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Eric Shinseki is out! Obama sacks Veterans Affairs secretary
Question of the Day
He said he wants a “VA as a whole that makes sure that bad news gets surfaced quickly, so that things can be fixed.”
Asked if he’s responsible for the problems, Mr. Obama said, “I always take responsibility for whatever happens” in his administration. But he also said the VA’s problem “predates my presidency.”
“The VA is a big organization that has had problems for a very long time,” he said.
It was the second time this spring that Mr. Obama has replaced a Cabinet member amid a scandal over basic government competence. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius departed in April after months of controversy over the botched rollout of the Obamacare website.
The VA scandal began last month when a whistleblower revealed that veterans were being placed on a “secret wait list” at the Phoenix VA facility that almost guaranteed they would not receive timely care. The initial report caused a handful of GOP lawmakers to call for Mr. Shinseki to step down.
A preliminary investigator general report released Wednesday, however, substantiated many of the claims and opened the floodgates, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle demanding the retired four-star general step down immediately.
The report found that 1,700 veterans at the Phoenix facility had never been placed on the official electronic wait list, meaning their wait time couldn’t be tracked and they likely would not see a doctor. This delay in care and manipulation of data was systemic, stretching across the entire VA system, according to the report. More than 40 facilities across the country are under investigation, the report said.
Prior to his resignation, almost 120 lawmakers — 38 of whom were Democrats — had called for Mr. Shinseki to step down.
While the president was initially supportive of his Cabinet chief, Mr. Obama’s faith in Mr. Shinseki appeared to wane after the report was released. In a press conference Thursday, Mr. Carney said Mr. Obama was anxiously awaiting results of an internal VA audit due early next month that will give a sense for how widespread the problems are at the embattled department.
“When he receives the internal audit, he’ll be able to evaluate those findings,” Mr. Carney told reporters at the White House, backing away from previous expressions of support. “I’m just not going to speculate more about personnel.”
Mr. Shinseki was sworn in as the secretary of veterans affairs in 2009. Prior to that, he served as the Army Chief of Staff and leader of the Army during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, according to his VA bio. The West Point Graduate was awarded two Purple Hearts and three Bronze Stars with valor during his almost 40-year military career.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the resignation amounted to “musical chairs” at the VA.
“Regardless of who the president wants running his department, it’s past time for the president to step up and fix this mess,” Mr. Priebus said in a statement. “He can start by calling on Harry Reid and his Senate Democrats to pass the bipartisan bill for accountability at the VA.”
Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, said Mr. Shinseki’s resignation “doesn’t solve the widespread, systemic problems” at VA.
“This is only the beginning. We need both reforms and a reformer,” he said.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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