Embattled Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has resigned, President Barack Obama said Friday.
“A few minutes ago, Secretary Shinseki offered his own resignation. And with considerable regret, I accepted,” Obama said during a statement at the White House Friday morning after a meeting with Shinseki.
VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson will take over as the VA’s interim secretary while the administration searches for a permanent head of the department, Obama said.
More than 100 lawmakers had called on Shinseki to resign, most of them coming forward in recent days after a horrifying Inspector General’s report detailed “systemic” problems throughout the veterans’ healthcare system. The report also found an average of 115-day wait times for veterans seeking primary care, as well as evidence of “scheduling schemes” used to conceal the wait times of other veterans.
Obama said Shinseki had released to him on Friday the results of an internal audit on the situation at the VA, which Obama said had found systemic problems at multiple VA facilities.
Shinseki delivered a speech before the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans Friday morning. He apologized for the problems at the agency and said “leadership and integrity problems can and must be fixed,” but he did not indicate he would resign. Shinseki also said he had begun the process to removing top officials from their positions at the troubled VA medical center in Phoenix.
Obama said Shinseki had offered his resignation because it was Shinseki’s “judgment” that he did not want to be a distraction while the VA works to implement reforms to its healthcare system.
“We don’t have time for distractions,” he said. “We need to fix the problem.”
Republicans and other lawmakers who called for Shinseki’s resignation indicated it was a positive step, but far from the only move needed to address the problems.
“This change of leadership is a meaningful initial step to meet our solemn obligations, but what’s still needed is an agreement by the President and his allies in Congress to join Republicans in legislation that would help to fix this system that has so failed our veterans,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
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