By Mario Trujillo - 05/08/14 08:14 AM EDT
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiVeterans group blasts VA secretary, despite words of regret Cruz: VA secretary 'should resign' VA secretary refuses to apologize for Disney comments MORE said he would not resign amid charges that the department attempted to hide long wait times for appointments at VA health clinics.
In an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, the secretary said he is "angry" at reports that claim the long waits resulted in some deaths.
"I offer my condolences to these families for anyone who's lost a veteran, any unexpected death in one of our facilities," Shinseki said. "What I want veterans to know, all the rest who are watching what's going on, I want them to know that this is a good, quality healthcare system, not perfect.
"And when we stumble across our imperfections, we are going to do something about it and get to the bottom of it, and to the best of our abilities assure it never happens again."
When asked if he would step down, he said, "I serve at the pleasure of the president.”
Shinseki has previously said he is sensitive to reports about deaths at a Phoenix clinic and said he would need to let the department's inspector general investigate.
The resignation calls follow revelations last month that a clinic in Phoenix placed some patients on a secret wait list to make it appear as though they were treated quickly. A whistleblower said 40 deaths might have resulted from the process.
Other allegations about false record keeping also surfaced at a Fort Collins, Colo., clinic this week.
A number of Republicans and veterans groups have called for his resignation, but the White House has said it remains confident in the retired four-star general's work.
“The president remains confident in secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the department and to take appropriate action based on the IG's findings," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.