“We don’t have time for distractions,” President Barak Obama said in announcing his decision to accept Shinseki’s resignation. “We need to fix the problem.”
Shinseki told the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans during a speech Friday morning, “I can’t explain the lack of integrity amongst some of the leaders of our health care facilities.”
“This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform, and so I will not defend it, because it is indefensible. I can take responsibility for it, and I do,” Shinseki said.
Shinseki said that senior leaders at Arizona VA hospital would be removed and that bonuses would be suspended this year for health administration senior officials.
Just moments after delivering the speech, Shinseki attended a hastily scheduled White House meeting with Obama where his resignation was announced. Obama said Shinseki will be replaced by VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson.
Colorado House Republicans demanded Shinseki’s step down earlier this month when it was revealed that a Fort Collins VA center had secretly wait-listed patients that prevented them from receiving timely medical treatment.
Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman urged Obama to ensure the new leader will “end the culture of corruption and bureaucratic incompetence that is hurting our veterans.
“History will judge this president harshly if he fails to confront this great failure with decisiveness and vision,” Coffman said.
Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn said Shinseki made the right decision to resign. “However, we must remember that there is still a lot of work to do to get to the bottom of the horrendous behavior that has been uncovered at VA facilities across the country.”
A report issued Wednesday by the Veterans Affairs’ inspector general showed that veterans served by a VA hospital in Phoenix were still at risk, and that 1,700 veterans were not on proper wait lists to get treatment. Additionally, the VA claimed veterans only waited 24 days for treatment, but the average waiting time extended to 115 days.
Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner issued a Tweet saying Shinseki’s resignation was necessary, and that the VA must restore confidence in the leadership and fix the system.
Several Democratic Senators began calling for Shinseki’s resignation on Wednesday after a robocall campaign by Republicans that targeted vulnerable candidates locked in tough reelection fights, including Colorado’s Sen. Mark Udall, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Mark Warner of Virginia.
In all, 89 House members and 24 Senators demanded the VA chief resign. Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter were not among those.
“Colorado is home to many veterans, who deserved far better than the care they received (or didn’t receive) under the Obama administration’s watch,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “Where were these four legislators when veterans needed them? Why wouldn’t they demand accountability for those who put their lives on the line so that we didn’t have to?”
DeGette released a statement more than an hour after Obama announced the resignation, and said that new leadership was needed, but that Shinseki’s dismissal “will not solve any problems unless this change in leadership is coupled with a commitment to reform from everyone involved.”