After initially putting Eric Shinseki in charge of investigating the growing scandal in his own department, Barack Obama announced Friday that he has accepted the Veterans Affairs secretary’s resignation. Pending the nomination process of his successor, Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson will serve as interim secretary.
While he said he regretted accepting Shinseki’s resignation, Obama concluded that he has become a distraction as investigators attempt to uncover the extent of healthcare delays that have been blamed for dozens of veteran deaths at VA facilities across the U.S.
“We don’t have time for distractions,” he explained. “We need to fix the problem.”
Reiterating the assessment he made during his first statement regarding the scandal, Obama described the outgoing secretary as “a very good man” and “an outstanding soldier.”
Despite the fact that Shinseki has led the VA during a period of what many conclude has been inexcusable misbehavior, Obama insisted he is “a good person who’s done exemplary work.”
The announcement came following a speech Shinseki gave before a group of veteran advocates in which he took full responsibility for the scandal, conceding he failed to identify the rampant problems within his department.
“We now know that VA has a systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity within some of our veteran health facilities,” he noted. “The breach of trust involved the tracking of patient wait times for appointments.”
The crux of the scandal revolves around allegations that thousands of veterans’ names were left off of hospital records in an effort to artificially reduce reported waiting times. The delays have been blamed for multiple deaths.
In his speech, Shinseki promised to terminate VA officials in Phoenix, where the most egregious examples of this misconduct are believed to have occurred.
As for Republican leadership, this resignation is far from a resolution of the overarching problem. GOP Chairman Reince Priebus explained that it is “past time” for Obama to take serious steps toward remedying the VA’s problems.
“Until then, personnel changes aren’t an answer to the problem for our veterans,” he concluded. “It’s just musical chairs.”
Photo credit: Jim Greenhill (Flickr)