Sen. Tester defends Shinseki's record at VA

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) defended Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Wednesday against calls for Shinseki's resignation.

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Tester was asked if he thinks Shinseki should step down.

“No. I don’t think so,” he said. “The VA is doing a pretty darn good job,” helping veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, he added.

Tester is a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, and, despite his high praise for the VA, he said more needs to be done.

“Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Does it need to be improved? Absolutely.”

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A number of lawmakers have called on Shinseki to resign from his Cabinet post because of a series of allegations involving misconduct at VA facilities around the country. The largest advocacy group for veterans, The American Legion, was the first to call on him to resign. 

Shinseki’s critics have highlighted one report from a VA hospital in Phoenix in which a whistleblower alleges a secret waiting list led to the deaths of as many as 40 veterans.  

“If one veteran dies, if someone screws up on a wait list, that’s far too many,” Tester said, but he added Shinseki has reduced the overall VA waiting list by 45 percent. 

“Secretary Shinseki has worked hard at it,” he said. “What has Congress done?” 

Tester explained lawmakers haven’t done enough to assist the VA.

“They’re pointing one finger at the VA, and three fingers back at themselves,” he said. 

After the segment with Tester, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough said he was “shocked” that a U.S. senator said the scandal is about politicians. “Wow,” he said. 

Shinseki is scheduled to testify about the allegations before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on Thursday.