Durbin: Shinseki’s ouster will not solve VA problem

Anne Wernikoff

Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday problems in the Department of Veterans Affairs would not go away with the removal of secretary Eric Shinseki. 

Durbin, who is slated to meet with the secretary on Thursday, said there needs to be clear accountability in the department amid allegations that some veterans had received delayed treatment and were placed on secret wait lists. 

{mosads}”If General Shinseki were gone tomorrow, the challenge at the VA would still be there,” Durbin said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We have to make certain that everyone is pulling together. It is easy to point fingers of blame and say if one person goes, that will solve the problem. It is more than that. It is an overwhelming challenge to a system, but a promise that we’ve made that it is going to work.”

If the allegations of secret wait lists designed to hide delays in care are substantiated by the inspector general’s investigation, however, Durbin said changes could be made up the chain of command. 

“If we find that that has been the case, we have to make dramatic changes, and these changes could go all the way to the top,” he said.

Two House Democrats have already called for Shinseki’s removal. However, Obama has said he would wait on the results of the inspector general’s report before punishing any employees. 

In terms of accountability, Durbin mentioned a bill passed in the House on Wednesday night that would give the VA secretary more discretion in firing top executives in the department, though he did not explicitly endorse the measure. 

“The House moved on a bill that would give the VA new authority to replace senior executives,” he said. “Today in the Senate we are going to have a hearing about more money for the inspector general.” 

Tags Department of Veterans Affairs Dick Durbin Eric Shinseki

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