After days of urging politicians to avoid judging Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki over the burgeoning healthcare scandal rocking his department, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain reversed course on Wednesday, saying it’s now time for the secretary to take responsibility and step down.
McCain spoke with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the growing scandal, which saw veterans denied access to much-needed specialists for months or years on end and bureaucrats in Phoenix (and possibly elsewhere) covering up their tracks by falsifying appointment records.
The Arizona senator — who, like Shinseki, served in Vietnam — at first was hesitant to axe the VA head before all the facts were in.
But a steady drumbeat of dying veterans and VA whistleblowers, coupled with the Wednesday release of an inspector general report confirming a criminal cover-up at the Phoenix VA, prompted a change of heart.
“But you’re stopping short — I want to be precise — from saying that the Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki should resign?” Blitzer asked.
“I think it’s — I think it’s reached that point,” McCain replied hesitantly. “I have not called for it. I was going to wait until the hearing that’s going to take place here very soon. But this keeps piling up.”
“And it can’t be just an isolated — the Phoenix VA is not an island,” the senator explained. “It’s not immune to other influences. Every other VA is probably going to have these same influences on them, because they were trying to comply with guidelines that were laid down from the headquarters of VA which they couldn’t meet.”
“That’s what this whole waiting list stuff is all about,” McCain concluded. “So I haven’t said this before, but I think it’s time for General Shinseki to — to move on.”