Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said Thursday that he intends to remain on the job to address allegations of mismanagement and delayed care for military veterans, adding that he has not offered his resignation to President Obama because of the recent controversy
Shinseki has faced increasing calls for him to step down this week amid allegations that VA officials improperly delayed scheduling appointments for some veterans. Obama expressed support for Shinseki on Wednesday, saying he expected him to stay on the job. But congressional leaders are growing increasingly concerned and impatient with an ongoing review of allegations at more than two dozen sites across the country.
In a brief interview Thursday with a small group of reporters, Shinseki was asked why he thought he was the best person for the job. "Others get to make that call, right? I serve at the pleasure of the president," he said. When a reporter noted that he's been "under the gun" this week, Shinseki quickly replied: “This is not the first time."
Shinseki is a former Army general who served two tours of duty in Vietnam and later earned a Purple Heart when he lost part of his right foot in battle.
"I came here to do one thing: Which is to take care of veterans and families. We’ve run hard for five years, I think we have good things to show for it, there’s more to be done," he said.
VA officials began a nationwide audit of facilities this week and Shinseki said the review is "about halfway through." He expects to be able to present Obama with some initial findings by next week.
Asked if he had offered his resignation to Obama, Shinseki said: “No. You guys know me better than that.”
He said he had "no idea" if Obama was only planning to keep him on the job until he makes any necessary changes. "The president asked me to take this responsibility, gave me certain things he wanted me to accomplish, I’m doing that."
"Every day I come to work, the idea is to make things better for veterans," he added. "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. They’re going to get it."
Shinseki was on Capitol Hill for about a 30-minute meeting with Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who had requested information on allegations against VA facilities in Illinois and for an update on the ongoing audits.
The secretary's visit came just a few hours after House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said "I'm getting a little closer" to calling for Shinseki's resignation amid reports of problems at VA facilities in his home state of Ohio and elsewhere.