Obama backs Shinseki despite calls to resign

 

President Obama is standing by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiHouse approves VA bill, sending it to Trump Senate backs bill making it easier to fire VA employees Shulkin confirmed to lead Dept. of Veterans Affairs MORE despite two prominent veterans groups calling for his resignation, the White House said Tuesday.

Both the American Legion and Concerned Veterans for America have called for Shinseki to step down following revelations that veterans at VA hospitals across the country died waiting for care.

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“As the president said last week, we take the allegations around the Phoenix situation very seriously,” said White House spokesman Shin Inouye, citing an incident where VA administrators misstated waiting times for veterans seeking treatment.

“That’s why he immediately directed Secretary Shinseki to investigate, and Secretary Shinseki has also invited the independent Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive review," he added.

“We must ensure that our nation’s veterans get the benefits and services that they deserve and have earned," Inouye continued. "The president remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the department and to take appropriate action based on the IG’s findings.”

But top veterans groups remain outraged after the VA acknowledged that at least 23 veterans had died because of delayed care at its hospitals. 

A CNN report last month revealed that administrators at a VA hospital in Phoenix had created a secret list to hide the wait times of veterans seeking medical treatment.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said he was concerned similar practices may have been employed at a Fort Collins, Colo., outpatient clinic.

Shinseki has placed the director of the Phoenix VA and two members of her staff on administrative leave.

Daniel Dellinger, the national commander for the American Legion, said he did not take his call for resignation lightly.

"But we do so today because it is our responsibility as advocate for the men and women who have worn this nation's uniform," Dellinger said, according to CNN.

Pete Hegseth, CEO of the Concerned Veterans of America, said in a statement that his group was "proud to stand with The American Legion."

"As America's largest veterans organization, their moral authority on this issue is unimpeachable," Hegseth said. "We applaud their demands for accountability at the very top of the Department of Veterans Affairs."

But a spokesman for the VA defended Shinseki and stressed that the department took the allegations of misconduct "very seriously."

"If the VA Office of Inspector General's investigation substantiates allegations of employee misconduct, swift and appropriate action will be taken. Veterans deserve to have full faith in their VA care," said VA spokesman Drew Brookie.

"Under the leadership of Secretary Shinseki and his team, VA has made strong progress in recent years to better serve veterans both now and in the future. The secretary knows there is more work to do."

The White House's decision to stand by Shinseki was first reported by Roll Call.