VA Sec. Shinseki Resigns
By Bill Chappell
Embattled Department of Veterans Affairs head Eric Shinseki has resigned his position, hours after saying he would work to fix "systemic" problems in the VA's health care system.
Citing systemic problems at the VA, President Obama says Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned Friday, in a decision the president said was made so that Shinseki wouldn't be a "distraction" from efforts to address the agency's wide-ranging problems.
The agency will be led on an interim basis by Sloan Gibson, its deputy secretary.
We've updated the top of this post with the news of Shinseki's resignation, and we'll be adding more details as they emerge.
Update at 11:35 a.m. ET: Widespread Problems At VA
President Obama announced Shinseki's departure from his Cabinet after saying that he had met with Shinseki Friday morning to get a more complete picture of the issues facing the VA.
"What they found is that misconduct has not been limited to a few facilities," Obama said.
He said that he accepted Shinseki's resignation "with considerable regret."
"I want to reiterate: He is a very good man," Obama said. He called Shinseki's work "exemplary" and cited progress in several areas during Shinseki's tenure at the VA. As we reported earlier today, those accomplishments include reducing homelessness among veterans.
Obama said the VA's problems had been obscured from his administration and Shinseki for a long time.
And he rejected a reporter's question about possible "scapegoating," saying that with the uproar around the VA's failings, he didn't want the agency's leader distracted by second-guessing and doubts about their tenure.
"We're going to need a new VA secretary," Obama said, adding that for now the agency will be lead by Sloan Gibson, who was confirmed as its deputy secretary in February.
Update at 11:20 a.m. ET: Obama Accepts Shinseki's Resignation
Citing systemic problems at the VA, President Obama says Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned his post Friday.
The president said a review of the VA's systems had found "unacceptable" problems in the agency.
We'll update as more news comes out.
Our original post continues:
"This situation can be fixed," Shinseki said of the VA crisis Friday morning, in a speech at the convention for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
Shinseki apologized for a situation that has reportedly included long wait times, fudged records and preventable deaths in the VA's medical system.
On Wednesday, the VA's inspector general issued an interim report that said "patients at the Phoenix VA hospital were put on unofficial wait lists and subjected to treatment delays of up to 115 days," as the Two-Way reported.
"I will not defend it because it is indefensible," Shinseki said. "But I can take responsibility for it and I do."
Saying that he had begun the process of removing the Phoenix facility's senior leadership, Shinseki also announced that he is suspending executive bonuses that are based on patient wait times. He also said he wants Congress to give his office more power to hire and fire staff within the agency.
In this morning's speech, Shinseki announced a success in another project, saying homelessness among veterans had dropped by 24 percent since 2010. As he discussed those gains, he received several standing ovations during Friday morning's event.
Both Obama and Shinseki have pledged to hold accountable anyone who's found to have contributed to the VA's problems.
The Inspector General’s report is a call to action for Congress and the White House to fix our broken VA system," said Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, in a statement Friday. "To the men and women who risked their lives for our nation, we made a solemn promise that requires Washington to put politics aside and put our veterans first. The President has accepted his responsibility and both parties in Congress should do nothing less. General Shinseki's resignation does not diminish this distinguished American’s service to our nation or his personal commitment to his fellow veterans.”
Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Tayorville issued a statement of his own Friday.
“While I welcome today’s news of Secretary Shinseki’s resignation, it was long overdue,” said Davis. “Sec. Shinseki should be commended for his service to our country, but the inexcusable failings of the VA continued on his watch and he must be held accountable. Now the President has the opportunity and responsibility to make real changes at the VA, and appoint a new leader who will restore accountability and ensure that the federal government is providing our nation’s veterans with the care that they need and rightly deserve."