On Friday, President Obama announced and had accepted Director of Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resignation. Shinseki would be taking the fall for the scandal which has engulfed the VA, but to many this was long overdue especially when members of both parties have called for his resignation.
President Obama stated, “A few minutes ago, Secretary Shinseki offered me his own resignation,” the president said in a statement in the White House briefing room. “With considerable regret, I accepted.”
The president continued to praise Shinseki for his years of honorable service to his country as a soldier, and as a member of his administration.
“He has worked hard to investigate and identify the problems with access to care, but as he told me this morning, the VA needs new leadership to address them,” the president said. “He does not want to be a distraction because his priority is to fix the problem and make sure our vets get the care that they need. That was Ric’s judgment on behalf of his fellow veterans. And I agree. We don’t have time for distractions. We need to fix the problems.”
With the resignation of Shinseki, the president has named Sloan Gibson as acting VA director until a permanent replacement is found. Gibson previously served as Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and President of the United Service Organizations (USO). Gibson has also served his country in the U.S. military, having graduated from the West Point Military Academy.
On Wednesday, the VA’s inspector general released a preliminary report and found “systemic” problems the Phoenix Veterans facilities, confirming the reports of gross mismanagement regarding misconduct and lengthy wait times, first reported last month.
Shinseki had faced a withering barrage of criticism since the scandal first broke, and when the IG presented its findings of systematic abuses and gross mismanagement the call grew louder for his resignation.
The call for his resignations began growing with the release of the IG’s report, with 12 Senate Democrats calling for Shinseki to step down.
Various veterans’ organizations reacted to Shinseki’s resignation with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) stating an “American patriot” whose commitment to veterans is “above reproach,” but said his resignation was in the best interests of the nation’s veterans.
Continuing, the VFW said Shinseki’s successor “will inherit a host of ongoing challenges, but he or she must immediately identify and fix what’s broken, to hold people accountable to the maximum extent of the law, and to do whatever is necessary to help restore the full faith and confidence of veterans in their VA.”
The American Legion commented, “Shinseki’s resignation “is not the solution, yet it is a beginning.”
“Too many veterans have waited far too long to receive the benefits that they have earned,” the organization said in a statement. “Wait times are increasing even for fully developed claims. But it was never just about a few of the top leaders. The solution is to weed out the incompetence and corruption within