At a press conference this morning, President Obama announced that he has accepted the resignation of embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. His resignation comes after the release of a series of damning reports about exceedingly long wait times for veterans seeking medical care.
"It's totally unacceptable. Our veterans deserve the best," Obama said. "I said last week that if we found any [wrong doing] it would be punished, and I meant it."
Sloan D. Gibson, currently the deputy VA secretary, will serve as acting secretary until a full-time replacement is found.
Previously, an investigation was launched into the proceedings of the VA hospital in Phoenix, where health care managers are accused of placing patients on months-long waiting lists to seek care. These health care officials, two of whom were placed on leave at the beginning of the month, are also accused of withholding these waiting lists so as to not endanger their hospital pay bonuses, which are based on short wait times. CNN reports at least 40 died waiting for care.
According to a report released Wednesday by the Richard J. Griffin, the acting inspector general, in the New York Times:
Mr. Griffin said the average waiting time in Phoenix for initial primary care appointments, 115 days, was nearly five times as long as what the hospital's administrators had reported.
He suggested that the falsified data may have led to more favorable performance reviews for hospital personnel, and he indicated that some instances of potentially manipulated data had been turned over to the Justice Department.
In a press conference held earlier today at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans., Shinseki capitulated to the findings of the inspector general's severe report.
"After Wednesday's release of an interim inspector general report, we now know that V.A. has a systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity within some of our veterans' health facilities," he said. "That breach of integrity is irresponsible, it is indefensible and it is unacceptable to me."
From the New York Times:
In his speech, Mr. Shinseki also said that he would fire senior leaders at the Phoenix medical center that falsified data about long waiting times for patients seeking doctor appointments. He said the agency would contact each of the 1,700 veterans there who are waiting for appointments and would announce the results of a nationwide audit of veterans health care facilities in the coming days.
"I can't explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health care facilities," Shinseki said. "This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform. And so I will not defend it, because it is indefensible. But I can take responsibility for it, and I do."
[Image via AP]