Donnelly, Walorski, Upton weigh in on VA secretary's resignation

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

WASHINGTON Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned amid widespread troubles in the VA health care system.

President Barack Obama says he accepted the resignation with "considerable regret." He and Shinseki met in the Oval Office on Friday morning.

Shinseki had faced mounting calls to step down from lawmakers in both parties.

After the resignation was announced, Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Representative Jackie Walorski (R-IN), and Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) each responded to the news.

“Secretary Shinseki served our country honorably, and I thank him for his service," Donnelly began. "It is time for a fresh pair of eyes on this calamity. Veterans deserve better than the bureaucratic nightmare they have faced in Phoenix and, from what we are learning, in other facilities.

“His resignation alone will not solve this problem, because this isn’t just about one man—it is about a culture change. We need to hold accountable those who were carrying out or encouraging these practices day to day, and we must ensure that the VA health system provides the responsiveness and quality care our veterans deserve. It’s clear that the current scheduling system is woefully inadequate and allows for those who want to game the system to disregard the standards we expect for those who have so honorably served our country. We must not stop until the system is fixed.”

“Secretary Shinseki is a decorated veteran and has dedicated his life to this country and for that we will always be grateful," Walorski said. "This issue is not partisan, nor is it political and it must remain that way. Today is not a celebration or a victory for the millions of American veterans in our country who are in limbo with doctor appointments, illnesses and medical benefits. Since I was sworn into office 18 months ago, I have heard heartbreaking stories from vets who have been left to die at the hands of the VA. I have been provided with reports detailing abuse and secret waiting lists that were destroyed. I will move heaven and earth if needed to make sure no one else suffers at the expense of VA mismanagement. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee has passed dozens of bipartisan measures to help improve the lives of our veterans. Now, 15 bills now sit in the Senate waiting for action. We must work together to get to the bottom of the corruption, which is why I called for Shinseki’s resignation almost three weeks ago and asked for an outside criminal investigation to tell us, once and for all, how preventable deaths and the cover-up of information, was allowed. Shinseki’s successor should have outside experience and gravitas and must put an end to the deliberate destruction of records while also holding bad actors accountable. Otherwise they are being set up for failure and veterans will continue to die. I look forward to working together with the VA to uncover the truth and help protect our nation’s veterans to ensure they receive the care and benefits they so rightfully deserve.”

“On Monday, we honored the millions of veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation," Upton began. "Our soldiers are given the best training and resources for the battlefield – they deserve the best treatment and care when they return home. Recent revelations of veteran mistreatment and facility mismanagement are appalling and heads needed to roll. Secretary Shinseki has led an honorable and distinguished career in service to our country, but it is time for new leadership to tackle the longstanding problems facing the VA. To fix our broken VA system and provide personalized veteran care, there needs to be accountability at the VA.”

Shinseki's resignation comes two days after a scathing internal report found broad and deep-seated problems in the sprawling health care system. The system provides care to about 6.5 million veterans annually.

Shinseki is a retired four-star Army general who has overseen the VA since the start of Obama's presidency.

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