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August 4, 2015

Shinseki Faces Barrage at Veterans Affairs Committee, Won’t Resign (Video)

Shinseki testified before the Veterans' Affairs Committee Thursday.

Shinseki testified before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee Thursday.  (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki faced a barrage of bipartisan outrage Thursday morning, with senators from both parties pointing to systemic problems at the department he manages.

Sen. Patty Murray was among those who said the VA cannot wait for completion of the inspector general’s inquiry into allegations of secret lists and deaths at a VA facility in Phoenix.

“This needs to be the wake-up call for the department. The lack of transparency and the lack of accountability is inexcusable and cannot be allowed to continue. The practices of intimidation and of cover-ups must change — starting today,” the Washington Democrat said in her opening statement.

Murray is intimately familiar with the VA, having served as chairwoman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in the previous Congress.

“Giving bonuses to hospital directors for running a system that places priority on gaming the system and keeping their numbers down, rather than provide care to veterans, must come to an end. But, Mr. Secretary it can’t end with just dealing with a few bad actors or putting a handful of your employees on leave. It has to go much further and lead to system-wide change,” Murray said. “You must lead the department to a place where we prioritize the care of our veterans above everything else.”

Shinseki continued to urge patience in his prepared statement, saying that the Office of Inspector General needs to be allowed to complete its work to investigate the myriad allegations surrounding the VA.

“I invited an independent investigation by the [OIG] to conduct a comprehensive, thorough and timely review. If these allegations are true, they are completely unacceptable — to veterans, to me, and to our dedicated VHA employees. If they are substantiated by OIG, responsible and timely action will be taken,” Shinseki said. “It is important to allow OIG’s independent and objective review to proceed until completion, and OIG has advised VA against providing information that could potentially compromise their ongoing review.”

Shinseki was asked by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., why he shouldn’t resign; the secretary said his post was not a job, but a mission.

“I intend to continue this mission” until it is finished or President Barack Obama tells him it’s time to go, Shinseki said.

The hearing kicked off shortly after a biting speech by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in which he said he hoped Shinseki would recognize a “systemic crisis” at the VA.

While McConnell, Murray and others praised the decision by the White House to dispatch deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors to the VA to oversee the review.

“We know he appointed a member of his staff yesterday to look into it. That’s a start,” McConnell said. “But if the president is truly serious, he needs to treat these stories at least as seriously as he did the Obamacare website fiasco, when he pledged his complete attention and the full force of his administration to do whatever needed to be done.

“The initial reports of the shocking situation in Phoenix indicate that things have only gotten worse. With similar stories now filtering in from other parts of the country, it’s getting harder to believe this isn’t more of a systemic, administration-wide crisis,” McConnell said. “The Veterans Administration needs to get to the bottom of how widespread the problem has become.”

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

 

Related:

White House Deploys Rob Nabors to Help Shinseki Fix VA

White House, Boehner Rebuff Calls for Shinseki to Resign

Top GOP Senators Call for Shinseki’s Ouster

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  1. BMarie

    May 15, 2014
    12:53 p.m.

    Instead of just looking at the problems at our VA hospitals, perhaps we should be asking ourselves as a nation what our priorities are. Is it to care for our physically and mentally wounded veterans, who are the reasons we have the freedoms we do in this country, or is it to show extreme so-called compassion to convicted criminals? I just recently heard that we are now going to provide psychiatric counseling to Bradley Manning, who now calls himself Chelsea Manning, for gender identity disorder. At one point we were seriously considering a sex-change operation (at taxpayer expense) for this convicted traitor, who as far as I am concerned should just have been shot but instead is costing taxpayers millions. It would be interesting to have a review of our prison medical care system and see how many criminals have died or have waited up to a year for essential medical care, like we have done to our vets. And why would any Vet have to wait even a day for counseling for PTSD when we are providing it to criminals?

  2. prosecutor1

    May 15, 2014
    4:01 p.m.

    By the way, next time you hear someone wishing for a Federal single payer system, realize it would probably look a lot like this: delays or rationing, with the emphasis on bureaucratic benchmarks rather than patient care.

  3. Dan Hossley

    May 15, 2014
    7:04 p.m.

    “won’t resign”? How about fired.

    • strongmind

      May 15, 2014
      9:30 p.m.

      who has responsibility for firing him? Obama? No can do. Obama believes that gov’ment people are above the law.

  4. Common_Sense_Post

    May 15, 2014
    7:09 p.m.

    What difference, at this point, does it make? The political class is never held accountable. I mean if Holder is still there and Sebelius was allowed to resign in thankful recognition of her service, nothing really matters except who your friends are.

    It is shameful!

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    Without centralized coercive power, it is impossible to force people to chase illusions such as “fair” income distribution, “man-made climate change”, and “social justice”.

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