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Franken, Walz, Peterson join GOP in demanding VA secretary’s ouster

  • Blog Post by: Corey Mitchell
  • May 29, 2014 - 10:07 AM

U.S. Sen. Al Franken and U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and Collin Peterson are among a growing number of Democratic lawmakers calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign after an inspector general’s report that found “systemic” problems at VA medical facilities.

The interim investigative report released Wednesday found at least 1,700 veterans waiting for health care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs medical facility were not included on the facility’s wait list, and patients there waited an average of 115 days for their first appointments.

The report also documents schemes used at VA facilities intended to conceal wait times and concluded that the problems are national in scope.

Less than a week ago, Walz said he would reserve judgment until the report was complete and that Shinseki, the longest-serving VA secretary in history, deserved the “benefit of the doubt.”

The troubling findings apparently removed all doubt.

“Secretary Shinseki is one of the most honorable and loyal men I have ever met,” Walz, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “It’s a shame that he and other veterans were let down by certain people working under him at the VA, but ultimately the buck stops with the Secretary. That is why today, I believe it would be best if Secretary Shinseki stepped down.”

With Franken, Walz and Peterson calling for Shinseki’s removal, more than half of the state’s 10-member congressional delegation is publicly calling for Shinseki’s ouster.

Senate Democrats plan to address accountability at the VA next week when they return to Washington, but Franken and other Senate Democrats are already calling for new leadership in the wake of the inspector general’s findings.

“The Inspector General’s report is so troubling that I have come to the conclusion that the Department of Veterans Affairs needs new leadership. I believe it would be in the best interest of veterans for Secretary Shinseki to step down,” Franken said in a statement.

“The VA needs to be delivering quality care to our veterans on a timely basis. Clearly there is a systemic problem that this leadership has not been addressing.”

In a statement released today, Shinseki said the findings were “reprehensible to me, to this Department and to Veterans.”

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough briefed President Obama on the report, but he has yet to take action.

“There needs to be accountability and new leadership and the best step forward is for the Secretary to offer his resignation so we can start fixing the problems where they exist,” Peterson said in a statement. “We have to do better by our veterans.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan called for Shinseki’s resignation last week. Among the Republicans in the Minnesota delegation U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline also want him out.

© 2014 Star Tribune