Kentucky politicians weigh in on what's next for VA in wake of Shinseki resignation

05/30/2014 05:05 PM

Kentucky political leaders on Friday described Eric Shinseki’s resignation as U.S. secretary of veterans affairs as a necessary first step to clean up an agency that has been plagued by backlogs and coverups.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who was in Frankfort on Friday afternoon, largely kept to his previous position on the V. A. and Shinseki saying the fix could be solved through vouchers for private care for those on the waiting lists.

Paul sent a letter to the acting secretary, Sloan Gibson, about the quality of care for veterans in Kentucky. Paul asks for the V.A. to provide the results of any reviews of facilities providing care to Kentucky veterans, as well as information regarding timeliness, quality of care, and potential abuses of the electronic wait list system in the state.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who last Friday said it was time from Shinseki to go, also weighed in on the resignation. He said Shinseki gave the nation a “lifetime of honorable service, and he is owed a debt of gratitude for his personal sacrifices made in and out of uniform.”

“The denial of care to our veterans is a national disgrace, and it’s fitting that the person who oversees the Department of Veterans Affairs has accepted responsibility for this growing scandal and resigned,” McConnell said. “The findings of the interim Inspector General report reveal a systemic failure within the Department of Veterans Affairs caused by a failure of leadership and supervision up and down the chain of command.”

McConnell’s Democratic U.S. Senate challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, who called for Shinseki to resign on last Thursday, said veterans affairs will be a top priority for her.

“I took no pleasure in insisting that General Shinseki leave his post. He served his nation as a career officer, faithfully. As a Senator, I will demand that we hold government officials accountable for the operations of their departments. Failures of such magnitude in the VA hospital system demanded a change in leadership,” Grimes said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D- Louisivlle, who has been more reserved about Shinseki as other Democrats started to pile on this week, issued a statement both thanking Shinseki for his service and urging Congress to continue their investigations into wrong doing.

“The ongoing revelations of undelivered care and misconduct at VA medical facilities are a national disgrace. The administration, Congress, and VA leaders must continue to investigate so that everyone can be held accountable for these failures, and so we can ensure our VA health care system has the resources it needs to provide the best care for our veterans, who have more than earned it,” Yarmuth said.

“Secretary Shinseki has taken responsibility for these failures, and his resignation provides an opportunity for new leadership to begin to address widespread mismanagement in the VA system and take swift corrective action. I thank Secretary Shinseki for his service to our nation, and I wish him the best,” Yarmuth continued.

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, who is an Army veteran, said there is more work ahead for Congress in the wake of the findings into the V.A. facilities.

“Secretary Shinseki made the right decision. An interim report by the Inspector General confirmed what we had heard – catastrophic wait times and secret lists hiding the urgent needs of patients. The VA needs a new set of eyes to properly audit its facilities and I believe that removing those who allowed this horrific situation to occur is the right decision. It’s time for swift action and a strong response,” Guthrie said.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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