North Carolina’s U.S. senators, who both had called for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, issued statements Friday on why they approved of his departure.
President Barack Obama announced he’d accepted Shinseki’s resignation “with considerable regret” after determining that the politics of the scandal over wait times for VA medical care were becoming a distraction. He named Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson as temporary head of the agency.
Shinseki is a former chief of staff of the Army and a decorated Vietnam War veteran.
Burr, the senior Republican on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, said:
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“I know this was a difficult decision for a decorated veteran. Secretary Shinseki built a career on tackling the tough challenges placed in front of him, and I thank him for his long and distinguished service to our nation. However, it was the right decision, as new leadership was needed at the agency. Along with new leadership, Congress must act to empower veterans facing unacceptable wait times at the VA with choice.”
Burr also said that Shinseki had not done enough.
“It must be reiterated that this problem is not about Phoenix but about the entire VA system and this one resignation will not solve the problem. This is not new, not contained within one facility, and not just about secret waitlists. We have a long, well document history of reports from the Inspector General, Government Accountability Office, and the Medical Inspector about the disturbing problems within the department. The steps that have been taken by Secretary Shinseki to freeze bonuses and fire individuals at the Phoenix facility (have) done nothing to address the other 41 facilities currently under active investigation.
“I look forward to working with Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson in his efforts to chart a new course for this troubled agency, and put it to work for all veterans.”
Hagan called for Shinseki’s resignation on Wednesday after an interim report by the VA inspector general was released.
“The Inspector General’s report outlining systemic problems at the VA is appalling, and I have said that we must hold those responsible accountable. Secretary Shinseki has served our country honorably. However, I believe his decision to step aside at this moment is appropriate and will allow the VA to move forward with new leadership to implement the necessary reforms and restore our veterans' trust in VA leadership,” Hagan said.
“But our work is only beginning,” she added. “The investigations and accountability must proceed, and we should make every effort in the coming weeks and months to implement reforms that ensure nothing like this happens again. North Carolina is home to nearly 800,000 veterans, and I remain committed to ensuring we are keeping the promises we have made to the men and women in uniform who have sacrificed to protect our country and our freedoms.”