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Veterans Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki has handed in his letter of resignation to President Barack Obama. The move came just a couple of hours after Shinseki took full responsibility for the VA scandal involving wait times that has dominated Washington for weeks.
Shinseki had just apologized at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans before meeting with Obama at the White House. On Wednesday, the Veterans Affairs inspector general released an independent report that confirmed media reports from the past two months that wait lists had been doctored by administrators to make it look as if veterans were receiving care on time when they were not. The Phoenix VA was at the center of the scandal, after it was reported that 40 veterans may have died waiting for care.
After meeting with Shinseki, Obama held a press conference, announcing that he has accepted Shinseki’s resignation. “Ric’s commitment to our veterans is unquestioned. I am grateful for his service,” Obama said, but noted that the VA needs to service the men and women who fought for the country.
“We’ll never stop working to do right by you and your families,” Obama said.
According to the New York Times, Obama noted that Shinseki “worked hard to investigate and identify the problem” and that Shinseki told him “the V.A. needs new leadership to address it. He does not want to be a distraction.”
Shinseki had refused to resign, insisting that he would investigate the cause of the problems and hold those responsible accountable. This morning, he told a veterans group, “I extend an apology to the people whom I care most deeply about — that’s the veterans of this great country, to their families and loved ones, who I have been honored to serve.”
Shinseki had held the post since 2009, when Obama first came into office, notes NBC News. He served in Vietnam and previously as the Chief of Staff of the Army.