Rep. Tammy Duckworth on Eric Shinseki: ‘I think he has to go’

May 30, 2014

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a former Veterans Affairs official who lost both of her legs while serving in combat during the Iraq war, said Friday that her former boss Eric Shinseki should resign.

“Our first priority should be the veterans and at this point whether Secretary Shinseki will stay or go is too much of a distraction,” she said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post. "I think he has to go. He certainly loves veterans, but it’s time for new leadership, it’s time to get someone in who will put veterans first. We’ve moved away from veterans being the primacy of the conversation. It’s now a political discussion and that’s not where it should be when it comes to our nation’s heroes."

Duckworth's comments will be both a psychological and big political blow to Shinseki, President Obama and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth worked from 2009 to 2011 as an assistant secretary for public affairs and intergovernmental relations -- essentially the public face of the department.

Duckworth made her comments to The Post after inquiries about her position on Shinseki following the release of an initial report by the VA inspector general. She had previously told The Post that she was “pissed off” about the situation but would reserve judgment.

Now, after reading the VA watchdog report this week, she said Shinseki needs to resign.

"The inspector general's office has clearly stated they’re looking at literally dozens of other facilities and we just don’t have the time to waste on political discussions when veterans need care," she said Friday.

Duckworth wavered on whether she would accept the job as VA secretary if Obama ever asked her to take it.

“I’m a sucker for that ‘Your nation needs you to serve’ line. But I would say no," she said initially.

But when asked again, she said: "I’m just getting started serving my constituents here and I guess you could never say no, but I think that the work that I’m doing now is critical."

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Transcript: Rep. Tammy Duckworth on the VA scandal and Eric Shinseki

Tammy Duckworth — veteran, ex-VA official, lawmaker — is very angry about new scandal

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
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