US veterans affairs secretary resigns

Erik Shinseki quits over veterans healthcare scandal which involved hospitals covering up delays in appointments.

Last updated: 30 May 2014 19:05
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

US Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned after taking public responsibility for widespread failures in health care for US war veterans.

President Barack Obama accepted the resignation on Friday after a morning meeting with the retired four-star general just two days after a scathing internal report found broad and deep-seated problems in the sprawling health care system, which is struggling to keep up with the number of vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report prompted loud calls for Shinseki to resign from congressional Republicans and Democrats.

Shinseki was accused of allowing hospitals to cover up massive delays in appointments.

Shinseki took responsibility for the leadership and integrity problems that were first found at a facility in Phoenix, Arizona, but are now part of a larger investigation involving others across the country.

The initial report alleged that up to 40 war veterans died while waiting for healthcare in Phoenix.

"We now know that VA 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 unacceptable to me."

The embattled secretary said he had been led to believe the problems were limited and isolated but that he had been too trusting.

"Given the facts I now know, I apologise as the senior leader of Veterans Affairs," he said, adding that the leadership and integrity woes at the VA can be fixed.

He announced several changes, including the removal of senior leaders at the Phoenix facility. He also called on Congress to pass legislation addressing the issue.

The report confirmed earlier allegations of excessive waiting times for care in Phoenix, with an average 115-day wait for a first appointment for those on the waiting list _ nearly five times as long as the 24-day average the hospital had reported.

The ageing network of hospitals and clinics - the VA opened its first new medical center in 17 years in 2012 - is one of the world's largest integrated health care systems.

The VA estimates the US has more than 21 million veterans, men and women who fought in World War II through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The largest group is Vietnam War veterans, who need more care as they age.


Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.