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VA secretary meets with Durbin; says Hines audit found nothing

WASHINGTON — Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, after meeting with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Thursday for about 30 minutes, said that a recently concluded audit of treatment at the Hines VA hospital near Maywood did not turn anything up — and that a Hines whistleblower will meet with a VA inspector general next week.

Shinseki told me Durbin asked for the meeting as he was heading to Durbin’s hideaway office in the Capitol, the day after he met with President Barack Obama over the VA treatment delay scandal at the VA Phoenix health system.

While members of Congress have called for Shinseki’s ouster, Durbin is not one of them.

Durbin said afterwards Shinseki “understands” the VA is facing a crisis and is taking the scandal “very seriously” and he is comfortable with Shinseki remaining at the helm of the VA.

I asked Shinseki about the situation at Hines after he met with Durbin.

“The IG is going to take a look. The meeting between the person making the allegations and the IG has not happened yet to this point. I’m not going to speculate. But in our audit, our team that went to visit Hines, I don’t recall anything that popped up,” Shinseki said.

That audit was within the last week, Shinseki said.

Shinseki told a small group of reporters that he never offered his resignation to Obama and he planned to stay on the job.

“Every day I come to work, the idea is to make things better for veterans,” Shinseki said. “This is Memorial Day weekend, and we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to remember. Veterans have done so much for this country. I happen to be a veteran; and I understand what this is about. And they deserve our best work, and they are going to get it.”

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has asked the VA to investigate whether records at Hines over wait times and scheduling have been manipulated “to provide a positive impression of veteran health care at VA hospitals in Illinois?”