Today President Obama met with and addressed the press over the growing controversy in the VA scandal. After meeting with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki around 10:15 this morning, the president announced about an hour later that Shinseki had offered his resignation, which Obama accepted. “After receiving a review of the VA by the general secretary, we have seen that the misconduct has been systematic,” Obama said. He noted that Shinseki has “started the necessary firings in Phoenix.”
The secretary has also canceled bonuses and has ordered all Phoenix area vets to be contacted. I am grateful for his service and he worked hard. The secretary resigned because he doesn’t want to be a distraction as we continue to get to the bottom of this. We won’t tolerate this misconduct.
The president also said that while the problem “predates my presidency,” he would keep investigating the matter. Deputy Secretary of the VA Sloan Gibson will be the acting VA secretary in the interim.
The VA scandal became known after it was reported that the Phoenix area veteran’s hospital had a secret waiting list. Reports alleged that this increased waiting times and led to the deaths of seventeen veterans. As details continued to emerge, it became clear that waiting times were a systemic problem that plagued much of the VA system.
Republicans quickly began calling for Shinseki’s resignation. So did some vulnerable Democrats—Senator Kay Hagan from North Carolina, which has a large military population along its coastal area, called for the secretary to step aside. Even some of the president’s biggest supporters, like Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee from Texas, began to call for Shinseki’s resignation several hours before the press conference.
Still, Shinseki had the support of some, like the independent socialist from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. But despite Sanders’ considerable support, the scandal ultimately proved too much.