Colorado Sen. Mark Udall has become the first Democratic senator to call for the resignation of Eric Shinseki, the secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Udall may have triggered an avalanche — shortly after his statement, Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan and John Walsh called for his resignation also.
Udall and Hagan are facing tough re-election battles, and so they have a strong incentive to ignore the usual Democratic pressure for solidarity against the GOP.
The calls for resignation came shortly after the release of a scathing investigation by the VA’s inspector general, which showed systemic management failures through the agency. Those failures included officials’ use of bureaucratic tricks to hide long delays in getting medical appointments for veterans.
“In light of IG report & systemic issues at @DeptVetAffairs, Sec. Shinseki must step down,” Udall declared in a 3:42 p.m. tweet.
— Mark Udall (@MarkUdall) May 28, 2014
“Secretary Shinseki has served our country honorably over many decades, but in the interest of regaining the trust of our veterans, and implementing real and lasting reforms, I believe it is time for him to step aside and allow new leadership to take the helm at the VA to correct these failings immediately,” said Hagan’s statement.
GOP legislators, including Sen. John McCain, and Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House committee on veterans affairs have also said Shinseki should step down.
“Attorney General Eric Holder should launch a criminal investigation into VA’s widespread scheduling corruption and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign immediately,” Miller said in a statement.
Shinseki, however, is trying to keep his job.
“I have reviewed the interim report, and the findings are reprehensible to me, to this Department, and to Veterans [so] I am directing that the Phoenix VA Health Care System (VAHCS) immediately triage each of the 1,700 Veterans identified by the OIG to bring them timely care,” he said in a statement released shortly after the IG report was released.
“I have already placed the Phoenix VAHCS leadership on administrative leave, and have directed an independent site team to assess scheduling and administrative practices at the Phoenix VAHCS,” Shinseki said.
“It is important to allow OIG’s independent and objective review to proceed until completion [and] OIG has requested that VA take no additional personnel actions in Phoenix until their review is complete,” Shinseki said.