Politics

Arizona Senators Join Calls For VA Secretary Shinseki's Resignation

| by Jared Keever

The list of lawmakers calling for the resignation of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki continues to grow. The two Republican senators from Arizona added their names to the list Wednesday following the release of an interim report from the VA’s Office of Inspector General that suggested many of the allegations that have been leveled against the department are true.

The study was conducted following reports that as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for care at a Phoenix VA hospital.

The Huffington Post reports that Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told CNN that he believed it was time for Shinseki to resign and that he thought the problem was likely not isolated to the hospital in his home state.

“This keeps piling up, and it can’t be just an isolated — the Phoenix VA is not an island,” McCain said. “Every other VA is probably going to have these same influences on them because they were trying to comply with guidelines that were laid down from the headquarters of VA, which they couldn’t meet. That’s what this whole waiting list stuff is all about. So I haven’t said this before, but I think it’s time for Gen. Shinseki to move on.”

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Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake also said Shinseki should step down. A Washington Post story indicates that Flake said if Shinseki refused, President Obama should ask for the resignation himself. 

Richard Griffin, the VA’s acting inspector general, found that patients had an average wait time of 115 days before their first appointment at the Phoenix facility. His report also found that 84 percent of veterans waited longer than the 14-day goal set by the VA.

The average wait time in the report stood in stark contrast to the 24-day average wait time the hospital reported in 2013, evidence that the facility had been underreporting wait times as many had alleged.

Griffin’s report indicated McCain’s suspicions of widespread problems were most likely true.

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"While our work is not complete, we have substantiated that significant delays in access to care negatively impacted the quality of care at this medical facility,” the report said, according to The Associated Press. It went on to suggest that "inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout” the VA’s 1,700 facilities.

Those practices concerned McCain to the point that he said a criminal investigation was justified.

"I believe that this issue has reached a level that requires the Justice Department involvement. These allegations are not just administrative problems. These are criminal problems," McCain said at a press conference.

Sources: Huffington Post, Washington Post, Associated Press