Miller joined a growing chorus of members calling for Shinseki’s resignation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 8:10 p.m. | Calls for the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki grew louder on Capitol Hill Wednesday, as the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee attacked the VA for not being forthright with information and an internal audit revealed that problems at a veterans’ medical facility in Phoenix were more extensive than previously reported.
House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller of Florida said the latest revelations, part of a preliminary inspector general report released Wednesday, raised concerns of criminal misconduct and have convinced him Shinseki should step down or be fired.
“Attorney General Eric Holder should launch a criminal investigation into VA’s widespread scheduling corruption and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign immediately,” Miller said in a statement Wednesday.
On Wednesday night, the Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to receive testimony from the VA in response to subpoenas the panel put out earlier this month, and Miller didn’t hold back his criticism.
“I will not stand for a department coverup,” Miller said at the outset of the hearing.
The VA responded to the committee’s subpoena Tuesday night. But, Miller said that given the VA’s pattern of “stonewalling” committee requests, he was “not at all convinced” the VA had been forthright in responding to the subpoenas.
The Florida Republican said he knew the VA was withholding at least three documents, citing attorney-client privilege, and Miller hammered the three VA witnesses in a grand show of congressional drama after one witness revealed he had taken notes during an internal investigation of the Phoenix hospital but had not turned over those notes to the committee.
“Until VA understands that we’re deadly serious, you can expect us to be over your shoulder every single day,” Miller said.
At one point, Miller grew so angry over the witnesses’ responses that he stopped one answer by shouting, “Veterans died! Get us answers, please!”
Democrats on the panel also expressed frustration.
“Let me be clear: I am not happy,” said the committee’s ranking Democrat Michael H. Michaud of Maine.
Michaud said while he was not “completely satisfied” with the VA’s response to subpoenas, there did seem to be a recent shift in the VA’s cooperation with the investigation.
By Wednesday evening, after news of the new inspector general’s report had spread, at least 37 House members had called on Shinseki to resign, with 10 of those pleas coming from House Democrats.
In addition to the House criticism, 12 senators have now called on Shinseki to step down, including three Democrats. Among the Republicans calling for Shinseki’s head was Sen. John McCain, who had been holding back on calling for the former four-star general’s resignation.