Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky Senate race, is calling on the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to resign amid a burgeoning scandal within the department.
“We owe a solemn obligation to our veterans and our government defaulted on that contract,” Grimes said of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in a statement. “I don’t see how that breach of trust with our veterans can be repaired if the current leadership stays in place.”
The Obama administration is under fire for the growing VA scandal, since reports surfaced nearly a month ago detailing patients dying while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA facility. Calls have mounted for Shinseki to resign or be fired. In a statement on Wednesday from the White House briefing room, President Barack Obama defended Shinseki, but he promised “accountability” if the allegations engulfing the agency were true.
In calling for his resignation, Grimes went further than many national Republicans who have blasted the administration over the scandal. House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday he is “getting closer” to calling for Shinseki’s resignation.
McConnell has been steadfast on his criticism of the administration. On Thursday, he called on Obama to take a more active role in addressing the scandal.
“So many Americans now turn on the evening news just to be sickened by a steady drip-drip from the Obama administration’s growing veterans scandal,” he said on the Senate floor.
Obama met Wednesday morning with Shinseki and Rob Nabors, the White House deputy chief of staff who Obama dispatched to conduct an internal review of the agency’s problems. The VA Inspector General’s Office also launched an investigation.
Obama said he understood the calls for swift action, but he urged the public to “let investigators do their job.” Obama said the preliminary results of those reviews are expected next week. More complete reports are due next month.
Since the reports about the Phoenix VA scandal, other reports from local VA facilities have detailed long wait times and delayed services. The Daily Beast last weekend shed light on the Albuquerque, N.M., VA facility that maintained a secret waiting list for veterans to hide delays piling up. CNN reported last month that at least 40 veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system.
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