US: VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigns amid crisis

Eric Shinseki

After more than a month of battling his critics, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned Friday, departing public service for the second time since his military career began in the 1960s.

At a meeting with President Barack Obama, during which Mr. Shinseki presented the VA’s internal findings from a nationwide review of scheduling practices, the retired general offered to resign to give a new VA leader the chance to fix the systemic problems at the department.

Mr. Obama said he accepted the resignation with “considerable regret.”

“This is my administration, I always take responsibility for whatever happens,” Mr. Obama said in a press conference after their meeting. ” The VA is a big organization that has had problems for a long time.”

The president named Sloan Gibson, deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs, the acting secretary.

Mr. Shinseki had been fighting to stay ahead of ever-growing problems at the VA since mid-April when a congressional hearing, combined with a public announcement from a former VA physician, brought attention to deliberate tampering with patient appointment-scheduling procedures at the Phoenix VA Health Care System—including employees making it appear that patients had short wait times, when in reality wait times were sometimes months longer.

A report released by the VA’s independent inspector general Wednesday confirmed these problems in Phoenix and said the scheduling problems appearing throughout the VA, with schedulers using a variety of techniques to game the system. The IG said it is or will be reviewing 42 separate VA facilities across the nation. Short wait times are a factor in performance awards and salary increases, the IG noted.