Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki pushed back Wednesday against a growing chorus calling for his resignation in the wake of a burgeoning veterans’ healthcare scandal, writing in USA Today that “we are doing all we can” to get veterans the care they need and to punish wrongdoers within the department.
Shinseki penned the op-ed in the midst of an enormous outpouring of anger against his leadership, brought on by inspector general confirmation that a VA office in Phoenix, Arizona left thousands of veterans waiting for months to see specialists and left 1,700 more off of waiting lists altogether. The report concludes that the fraud and mismanagement is “systemic,” not confined solely to Phoenix.
A bipartisan group of at least six Senate Democrats and eleven Senate Republicans have called on Shinseki to step down, claiming he’s missed his shot at reforming the beleaguered department.
But Shinseki didn’t address these calls — at least not directly — in his op-ed. Instead, the former Army general called the inspector general’s findings “reprehensible,” adding “we are not waiting to set things straight.”
“I immediately directed the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to contact each of the 1,700 veterans in Phoenix waiting for primary care appointments in order to bring them the care they need and deserve,” he explained.
But that’s not all. Shinseki promised a laundry list of actions the VA will take, promising to “fully implement” the inspector general’s recommendations, explaining a nationwide audit of all VA healthcare facilities is underway and noting he placed Phoenix-area leadership on administrative leave at the start of this month.
“We are doing all we can to accelerate access to care throughout our system and in communities where veterans reside,” he declared, defending his leadership while failing to address calls for his resignation.
Shinseki further added that the VA is “redoubling our efforts, with commitment and compassion, to restore integrity to our processes to earn veterans’ trust.”
Not once in the op-ed did the VA director apologize for his department’s mistreatment of America’s veterans.
President Obama refuses to answer whether he will fire Shinseki, even after Wednesday’s report. On Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president is waiting on the results of an audit before making a decision.
“He believes Secretary Shinseki has served his country and he believes he is committed to his fellow veterans,” Carney said. “He’s put his heart and soul into this thing.”