Duckworth, Lipinski call for Shinseki’s resignation

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Illinois Democratic Reps. Tammy Duckworth and Dan Lipinski on Friday became the first Democrats in the Illinois delegation to call for the resignation of embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Earlier, Rep. Adam Kinzinger R-Ill. said Shinseki should go.

Duckworth’s voice is influential. She is a wounded Iraq war vet who served with Shinseki when she was at the VA, earlier said Shinseki should have a chance to “fix” the VA. Now, in a statement to the Sun-Times, Duckworth said in the wake of internal reports, it’s time for new leadership at the VA.

“It is clear from the Inspector General’s latest report that the issues with the Veterans Health Administration system are even greater than originally thought and the findings are simply not acceptable. Our first priority must be to provide quality and timely healthcare for our Veterans.  Unfortunately, this scandal has been a distraction from that and that’s why I think it’s time for new leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is crucial that we work together in a bipartisan fashion to do whatever is necessary to fix these problems and make sure that they never happen again,” Duckworth said.

Sen. Mark Kirk R-Ill. is hosting a press conference in Chicago on Friday featuring a whistle blower from Hines VA Hospital near Maywood.

“Following the release of the interim report from the Inspector General’s independent review of the growing VA scandal, it is becoming painfully clear that the problems extend well beyond the confines of one facility in Phoenix, Arizona.  VA Secretary Shinseki is a hero, who has served our country honorably for decades, but considering what has occurred under his watch, we owe it to the American people, especially our brave veterans, to begin a comprehensive review and reform of the entire VA operation with a change in leadership,” Lipinski said in a statement.

“While I do not believe that Shinseki was directly involved in the creation of any of the waiting lists or the subsequent obstruction of information, this problem is the result of a failure in the VA to match up their directives with available resources.  If the agency is going to establish a 14 day maximum wait for veterans to see a doctor, then they must assure that there are the doctors, nurses, medical rooms, etc. necessary to see that volume of patients.  That is the responsibility of the highest levels of management, and in this case, that is Secretary Shinseki.  His dismissal would not be the solution to this widespread systematic failure, but I believe it is a necessary step towards restoring the American people’s faith in the VA.  

“The President should immediately nominate a capable individual to take the Secretary’s position, in order to assure strong top-level leadership at the VA, and the Administration and Congress need to do a thorough review not only of the management and care failures, but to ensure that we are effectively funding and resourcing the VA to handle the increased medical care demand they face.

“Locally, I will continue to direct my attention to the service our family, friends, and neighbors receive at the Hines VA facility.  And I call on all veterans to not be silent regarding problems they have encountered receiving care at Hines or any other VA health care center.”

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