Democratic Rep. Scott Peters of San Diego wanted him gone. So did many Republicans. On Friday, President Obama accepted the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki amid investigations of wait times at VA hospitals.
Said Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents the 49th District in North County:
“Our veterans, who sacrificed their safety and risked their lives for their country, deserve the best care our nation can provide. It is our duty to ensure that no veteran is ever subjected to excessive wait times or substandard care. With Secretary Shinseki’s resignation today, we can begin to address the systemic dysfunction that has plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs for years. Only a thorough independent investigation, followed by real reform, can finally solve the deeply rooted problems at the VA and fulfill our commitment to our nation’s veterans.”
Via Twitter, Peters said: “Thank you to Gen. Shinseki for his life of service. Now we must move forward and ensure our veterans receive the care we promised them.”
In April, Republican Rep. Duncan D. Hunter wrote:
“In other spheres, a leader who falters would be swiftly replaced. Can you imagine a battlefield commander failing yet staying in place? We cannot and therefore believe that new leadership at the VA — from top to bottom, in Washington and across the country — is necessary.”
U-T San Diego was among many conservative media outlets calling for a new VA leader.
In a May 7 editorial, the U-T said:
Taken as a whole, the breadth and variety of problems with the department suggest a deeply unhealthy internal culture — one that Shinseki hasn’t come close to rooting out. … In 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama repeatedly promised veterans that if elected he would make fixing the “broken VA bureaucracy” a priority.
The president has now been in office 63 months. It’s time he finally got around to fulfilling his campaign promise. Replacing Shinseki with an aggressive reformer is the obvious way to start.
In his April ope-ed, Rep. Hunter joined two dozen other service veterans demanding a change at the top:
We recognize that replacing a Cabinet secretary is a dramatic step. But few things are more important than honoring the commitments our nation has made to its veterans. The president and VA officials have said all the right things, but they have not delivered. Good intentions and rhetoric are not enough; results are what matter.
Since the problems at the VA did not arise overnight, merely replacing the secretary would not fix the underlying issues. The department needs a dynamic and uncompromising leader who will make bold reforms to a bloated and calcified bureaucracy and rethink the way we interact with and serve veterans of all generations. We need to learn from the private sector about customer service and efficiency and hold VA officials accountable to deliver on their mission.
Rep. Peters — facing a stiff challenge from Republican Carl DeMaio in the 52nd District race — came out for Shinseki’s sacking on Wednesday:
For too long the VA has been steeped in complacency and mismanagement – that has to end today and the change must begin at the top. While General Shinseki’s service to his country is unquestioned, the failure to make necessary changes cannot continue. Secretary Shinseki should resign immediately or President Obama should ask him to leave.
Our veterans and I have lost confidence in the Secretary’s ability to lead this deeply troubled institution. While I feel strongly that the changes needed are much bigger than just firing one person, this is the right start. As we seek to change the VA’s cultural failures, it will require many more changes including rooting out the managers who allowed unacceptable practices, like we’ve seen at the Phoenix facility, to occur. Our veterans, and their families, who have sacrificed so much deserve better.
A week earlier, DeMaio issued his own statement:
It’s evident that Secretary Shinseki does not possess the ability to lead the VA in such a way that any member of the military or their family members can have confidence that they will be treated. The idea that even one veteran — let alone 40 — may have died as a result of having to wait inappropriate lengths to receive treatment is abhorrent and should not be tolerated or excused.
San Diego is home to some of the largest military installations in the world, and home to scores of former, current, and future servicemembers. It’s imperative that swift and immediate action be taken to ensure their health and well-being.
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