WASHINGTON - Eric Shinseki has resigned as Veterans Affairs Secretary.
President Barack Obama made the announcement after a closed door meeting Friday morning.
Just an hour before, Shinseki apologized, announced changes and recognized the extent of problems in the VA system. He apologized to veterans and Congress for not recognizing the issues earlier, but declared that the situation can be fixed.
The VA has acknowledged 23 deaths nationwide due to delayed care.
Deputy VA Secretary Sloan D. Gibson will run the department on an interim basis while President Obama searches for Shinseki's replacement.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.):
"With the resignation of Secretary Shinseki, it is time for deep soul-searching at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Shinseki is himself a disabled veteran, an experienced leader and an ardent patriot. He oversaw some notable achievements during his tenure that are benefitting veterans. But the fact that he was unable to lead the VA to a place where it can routinely provide the quality, timely care our veterans earned should be deeply troubling to all of us. Systemic reforms, sufficient resources and insistence on accountability will be needed, and promptly. I call on the President to make reform of the VA a centerpiece of his remaining time in office. The many good men and women working in the VA need to become forces of renewal to overcome these challenges. And Congress must pay ongoing attention to this appalling situation to provide the real and ongoing oversight, lawmaking, and funding needed to achieve where we have previously failed."
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.):
“Secretary Shinseki is an American hero who courageously served his country in war, rose to be the Army chief of staff and has dedicated his distinguished career to helping his fellow soldiers and veterans. I am sad that he resigned. The unequivocal goal of the VA must be to provide the highest-quality health care possible to all of our veterans in a timely manner. The new leadership must transform the culture of the VA, establish accountability and punish those responsible for the reprehensible manipulation of wait times. As chairman of the Senate veterans’ committee I look forward to working with President Obama, the new VA leadership and my Senate colleagues to make that happen.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.):
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for General Shinseki and am thankful for his service to our country. But I also believed the VA needed new leadership to address the fundamental problems that plague the agency. New leadership, however, is only a first step; we still must fix the underlying problems at the VA in order to honor our promise to our veterans. In the coming days I plan to introduce legislation to address some of the concerns detailed in the Inspector General's interim report and hope that we can all work together to implement reforms to make sure our veterans are getting the care they need and deserve."
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):
“First and foremost, New Yorkers and Americans have tremendous gratitude for General Shinseki and his service. He served his country long and well, and made sacrifices that few others make for our freedom and the good of our country. He is in the fullest sense of the word a true patriot. In keeping with General Shinseki’s stellar character, he offered his resignation because he realized, as every good soldier does, that the buck stops at the top and that accountability in government is vital, particularly when it comes to serving our veterans. We must move quickly to find a new leader for the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as find out who within the VA has been responsible for the horrible revelations we have heard in the last several weeks and make sure they are held accountable. But accountability must not be the final step. We must also find out why the Department of Veterans Affairs did not treat our veterans appropriately and provide the resources, focus and direction so that this never happens again.”
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