Politics

Eric Shinseki Resigns at VA; Congressmen Want Further Action

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: May 30, 2014 1:40 PM
Jeff Miller, Eric Shinseki, Bill Nelson

Jeff Miller, Eric Shinseki, Bill Nelson

President Barack Obama announced Friday morning that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned.

After a meeting with Shinseki, who has faced relentless criticism since reports emerged about chronic problems with VA medical centers across the country -- including altered waiting lists -- Obama called the situation “totally unacceptable” and announced his only VA secretary had resigned.

“A few minutes ago, Sec. Shinseki offered me his own resignation. And with considerable regret, I accepted,” Obama said before praising Shinseki’s record in the Army and praising his record on improving veteran access to education.

“The VA needs new leadership,” Obama said, before insisting Shinseki did “not want to be a distraction because his priority is to fix the problem and make sure our vets are getting the care that they need. I agree. We don't have time for distractions. We need to fix the problem.”

For the moment, Obama is turning to Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson to lead the department on an interim basis.

“Sloan became deputy secretary at the VA just three months ago, but he, too, has devoted his life to serving our country and our veterans,” Obama said. “His grandfather fought on the front lines of World War I. His father was a tailgunner in World War II. Sloan graduated from West Point, earned his airborne and ranger qualifications and served in the infantry. And, most recently, he was president and CEO of the USO, which does a remarkable job supporting our men and women at war, their families, our wounded warriors, and families of the fallen.

"So, all told, Sloan has 20 years of private-sector and nonprofit experience that he brings to bear on our ongoing work to build a 21st century VA. And I'm grateful that he is willing to take on this task. I met with Sloan after I met with Ric this morning, and made it clear that reforms should not wait. They need to proceed immediately.”

The Florida congressional delegation, many of whose members had been sharply critical of Shinseki, quickly responded, saying it was the right decision.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., called Shinseki’s resignation the “right thing” for veterans and the country. Nelson repeated his call for major changes of leadership at VA.

“Now that he resigned, we can get on,” Nelson said. “There ought to be a lot of heads rolling, because there is something in the culture of the VA that is not responding to serve our veterans the very best that they deserve.”

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, praised Shinseki’s record in the Army but insisted his record in the Obama Cabinet “will forever be tainted” due to poor leadership on VA medical centers.

"Everybody knows Eric Shinseki is an honorable man whose dedication to our country is beyond reproach,” Miller said on Friday. “I thank him for his legacy of service to our nation. Unfortunately, Shinseki's tenure at the Department of Veterans Affairs will forever be tainted by a pervasive lack of accountability among poorly performing VA employees and managers, apparent widespread corruption among medical center officials and an unparalleled lack of transparency with Congress, the public and the press. Appropriately, Shinseki is taking the brunt of the blame for these problems, but he is not the only one within VA who bears responsibility. Nearly every member of Shinseki's inner circle failed him in a major way. Those who surrounded Shinseki shielded him from crucial facts and hid bad news reports, in the process convincing him that some of the department’s most serious, well-documented and systemic issues were merely isolated incidents to be ignored. Eric Shinseki trusted the VA bureaucracy, and the VA bureaucracy let him down.

“Right now, VA needs a leader who will take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability,” Miller added. “VA’s problems are deadly serious, and whomever the next secretary may be, they will receive no grace period from America’s veterans, American taxpayers and Congress.”

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., praised Shinseki’s service in the military but insisted there were “serious issues” at VA medical centers under his watch.  

"It's unacceptable that VA facilities across the U.S. have been neglecting the needs of our veterans,” Ross said on Friday. “The recent report from the inspector general of the VA also confirmed the mismanagement. While we appreciate Sec. Shinseki's service as a veteran himself, we can't overlook these serious issues that have continued under his tenure.

"I'm hopeful that new leadership will mean new practices that will always place the needs of our heroes first,” Ross said. “We need to have a thorough investigation of the VA's egregious actions to make sure that our veterans always receive the timely and quality care that they deserve."

Ross wasn't alone in the Florida delegation to want further action.

“I have believed from the beginning of this crisis that personnel changes would be required and I respect the secretary's decision," said U.S. Rep. David Jolly. R-Fla. "However, today's resignation does not bring an end to this crisis, but it does provide an opportunity for the president to demonstrate his commitment to swiftly eliminate the medical waiting lists now. I'm encouraged by the administration's comments today about quickly addressing the wait time issue and I renew my call for the president of the United States to remain personally engaged in this matter until every veteran has received the timely care they have earned and should expect"


Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com

Comments (5)

scexile
10:08AM MAY 31ST 2014
What absolute hubristic hypocrites. Every one of these idiots screeching about the horrible treatment of "our veterans" have been aware of the systemic and endemic problems within the VA for the past 30+ years-and they did nothing. As David Corn pointed out in Mother Jones, the REAL issues started in the Bush years-God forbid the rest of the media latch onto that tidbit!
The Republicans in Congress want to hang this on the administration so badly that they are banking on the hope the media does no further checking on just which Members repeatedly blocked funding for the VA. Miller is possibly the worst of the lot; I-unfortunately- live in this man's District and have witnessed first-hand the little he has accomplished in the past decade. Now that the situation has finally become a national "scandal", he is confident he can use this as a springboard to higher office in the Washington cesspool. Miller has made certain not to miss any opportunity to place himself front and center in the media storm. Now that the so-called "head of the snake" has been cut off-Gen. Shinseki's forced resignation-who truly believes anything further will be done? Another crisis will occupy the news in a week or so and the vets will once again be forgotten.
Those who are so offended now will return to pushing the "Support our Veterans" bumper stickers and placing flags on gravesites one day a year. Support? They aren't going to support anyone other than themselves. After all-the veterans are no longer of use-they are relegated to the past as soon as they retire or wounded. While the public has-and shows-respect, the lawmakers in Washington respect nothing other than keeping their jobs-no matter party affiliation.
Each and every Congressman/woman who has served in any capacity concerning the VA system in the last 30 years needs to be fired. No pension. No Retirement benefits. They are all guilty.
H.E. "Pete" Ashley
8:21PM MAY 30TH 2014
Bill Nelson's resignation would be great for the State of Florida as he has done nothing for the State.
Mark
5:35PM MAY 30TH 2014
I, as a disabled veteran would expect those members of the Congressional Veterans Affairs Committee to resign as well since they have been well aware of the problems, as evidenced in Mr Miller's letter of concern to the President almost a year ago! He may be from my home state, Florida, but he should resign his position, along with everyone else! Let's have a FRESH beginning!
C Breeze
4:31PM MAY 30TH 2014
Shinseki is gone; Now Congressman Jeff Miller, Corinne Brown and the rest of the Congressional Veterans Affairs Committee should also RESIGN because they knew of the VA's problems for years and primarily looked the other way. Miller sees this as an opportunity for "government mammary" advancement (either Federal or State...[Florida Dept of Agriculture] But he doesn't deserve it...He's useless, I know, I live in his FL Panhandle Congressional District. BE CAREFUL FLORIDA VOTERS... Lots of useless people anticipate being promoted just by "stepping into the vacuum and floating to the top" (Kinda like how a cesspool works !)
Frank
10:26PM MAY 30TH 2014
Yes, yes, along with all those GOP Senators who filibustered the VA increased medical care funding bill back in February, correct . . . .

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