By Rebecca Shabad - 05/29/14 08:25 AM EDT
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Thursday called the findings of a preliminary internal report “reprehensible” and said he won’t wait to fix the agency.
“The findings of the interim report of VA's Office of Inspector General on the Phoenix VA Health Care System are reprehensible to me and to this department, and we are not waiting to set things straight,” Shinseki wrote in an op-ed published in USA Today.
Shinseki said he immediately directed the Veterans Health Administration to contact all 1,700 veterans in Phoenix waiting for primary care appointments “to bring them the care they need and deserve.”
Shinseki defended himself against calls for his resignation, summarizing his decisions to quickly review alleged VA misconduct and punish people responsible for it.
“After 38 years in the Army, I am honored and privileged to serve veterans as the secretary of Veterans Affairs, and I remain committed to providing the high-quality care and benefits that veterans have earned and deserve. And we will,” he wrote.
In April, for instance, he said he directed an independent site team to evaluate administrative and scheduling practices in Phoenix. At the beginning of May, Shinseki said he placed members of the Phoenix VA leadership on administrative leave.
“The Office of Inspector General has since requested that VA take no additional personnel actions in Phoenix until its independent, objective review is complete,” he said.
Shinseki’s commitment to fix the agency’s widespread problems comes as an increasing number of lawmakers are calling on him to step down.
A number of members of Congress called for his resignation on Wednesday after the release of the IG’s internal report.