LoBiondo: Veterans Affairs head should step down

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WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo has called for the resignation of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki amid revelations of mistreatment of veterans at VA hospitals and facilities, as detailed in national media reports.

On May 5, the American Legion called for Shinseki’s resignation.

 “There are no words to justify the horrific treatment and disrespect some veterans have received and no action short of resignation that Secretary Shinseki could take that would begin to repair the extensive breach of trust with those who sacrificed so much for our country,” LoBiondo said in a statement.

He also claimed President Barack Obama had failed because he did not demand the resignation of Shineski at their most recent meeting.

“President Obama is not listening to our nation’s veterans who are looking for leadership from the Commander-in-Chief,” LoBiondo said. “The deplorable actions of those charged with providing critical healthcare and service to our nation’s veterans must be prosecuted to the fullest. Likewise, the systemic failure of leadership under Secretary Shinseki that allowed such acts to become commonplace must end immediately.”

In a statement to the press, Obama said that the two men discussed the alleged misconduct at VA facilities and agreed to work together to hold those accountable responsible. He ordered Shinseki to investigate the allegations and directed Rob Nabors, Obama’s deputy chief of staff, to complete a broader review of the Veterans Health Administration.

“When I hear allegations of misconduct, any misconduct, whether it’s allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books, I will not stand for it,” the president said. “Not as Commander-in-Chief, but also not as an American. None of us should.  So if these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it – period.”

National media reports have detailed the existence of “secret waiting lists” that have falsified the length of time that some veterans have waited for access to treatment at some VA hospitals and clinics. Furthermore, whistle-blower reports have raised additional questions as to the adequate care of some veterans. Shinseki has been at the helm of the VA since 2009.

In an effort to address the growing concerns of mismanagement at the VA, the House will vote Thursday, May 22, on the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014, of which LoBiondo is a cosponsor. The bipartisan bill authorizes the accelerated removal of any senior management personnel at the VA upon determining that such individual’s performance warrants removal, and removes such individual from federal service. The discretion for such action would reside with whoever was serving as Secretary of the VA.

“We can’t retroactively correct the gross mismanagement and incompetent decisions made by senior VA officials at the detriment of our veterans, but we can quicken their removal from service and prevent future harm,” he said. “This bipartisan legislation should be quickly acted on by the Senate and fully supported by the president.” 

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