Obama accepted Shinseki’s resignation “with considerable regret,” and appointed Slone Gibson, the agency’s No. 2 official, as temporary secretary. Obama said that the Justice Department would determine if any illegality had occurred, and that a top White House aide who has been detailed to the Veterans Affairs Department would remain there for the time being.
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As for Shinseki, Obama said, “I regret that he has to resign under these circumstances.” He showered praise on the Vietnam veteran and former Army chief of staff for his decades of service. Obama said the Cabinet officer had told him “he does not want to be a distraction” from the need to repair the agency, a task the president said pointedly could well require Congress to approve additional money.
In the 36 hours that followed the findings on Wednesday, Democrats in tough re-election races joined Republicans in clamoring for Shinseki’s resignation.
A lifetime of service, in uniform and out, wasn’t enough to save Shinseki’s career, though, after agency investigators reported widespread problems in its sprawling hospital system and reported that 1,700 veterans seeking treatment at the Phoenix facility alone were consigned to limbo because they had never been added to official wait lists.
Republicans in Congress said a resignation alone wasn’t enough to solve problems at an agency that has been struggling to keep up with a huge demand for its services — some 9 million enrolled now compared to 8 million in 2008. The influx comes from returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, aging Vietnam War vets who now have more health problems, a move by Congress to expand the number of those eligible for care and the migration of veterans to the VA during the last recession after they lost their jobs or switched to the VA when their private insurance became more expensive.