Transcript for President Obama Accepts VA Chief Eric Shinseki's Resignation
This is an ABC news. George Stephanopoulos. Good morning we're coming -- -- -- right now because we have breaking news out of Washington President Obama about to come to the White House briefing room to address the growing scandal at the veterans administration. And the growing calls for veterans affairs secretary -- -- to resign. -- -- he just met with the president the White House we saw him leaving just moments ago up to a 126. Members of congress have now called for him to resign he's seen leaving. Right there -- -- to go straight to Jon Karl at the White House in the White House briefing room and John. Yesterday you twice as Jay Carney the -- -- Press Secretary the president had confidence in general consecutive. He would answer. George I asked that question about six different ways -- actually no answer. The White House not able to answer this simple question of whether or not the president still less confidence in his cabinet secretary of this meeting went on for. 45 minutes I think it is significant as the president is going to be coming out here alone he also said it was we saw on Good Morning America. He's gonna have a conversation with general -- -- about whether or not he has the capacity to do the job losses now we will hear the results of that -- politics. He certainly does not have support on Capitol Hill right now and go quickly to Jim happily Jim. This comes out of allegations of extensive misconduct the veterans affairs -- Phillies -- Seventeen facilities at the 17100 people lost here comes the president right now. Good morning everybody. A few minutes ago the -- and psyche and rob -- who -- temporarily assigned to work with the VA. Presented me with the department's initial review. VA facilities nationwide. And what they found is that the misconduct has not been limited to a few VA facilities. But many across the country. It's totally unacceptable. Our veterans deserve the best they've earned it. Last week I said that if we found misconduct it would be punished and I -- The -- and psyche -- now begun the process of firing many of the people responsible including senior leaders the Phoenix BA. He's canceled any possible performance bonuses this year for VH -- it senior executives. And he has ordered the VA to personally contact every veteran in Phoenix waiting for appointments to get them to care that they need. And that they deserve. This morning I think some of you also heard Rick. Take a truly remarkable action in public remarks he took responsibility for the conduct of those sold -- And apologize to his fellow veterans and to the American people. And a few minutes ago sectors and certainly are for me his own resignation. With considerable regret. I accepted. -- -- -- he has served his country would honor for nearly fifty years. He did two tours of combat in Vietnam he's. -- veteran -- -- to park himself on the battlefield. He rose to command. The first cavalry division. Served as army chief of staff. And that's never been afraid to speak truth to power. The secretary -- he presided over record investments in our veterans. In rolling two million of veterans and health care. Delivering just go to -- more Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Make it easier for veterans with post traumatic stress. Mental health issues and traumatic brain injury to get treatment. Improving care for all women veterans. That same time he helped reduce the veteran homelessness. And helped more than one million veterans service members and their families pursue their education. Under the post nine elevenths GI bill. So -- commitment. To our veterans. Is on question. The service to our country. Is exemplary. I am grateful. For his service as are many veterans across the country. He has worked hard to investigate and identify the problems with access to care. -- told me this morning for the VA needs new leadership. To address. He does not want to be a distraction because his priority is to fix the problem and make sure bets are getting the care that they -- That was -- judgment on behalf of his fellow veterans. And I agree we don't have time for distractions. We need to fix the problem. For now. The leader that will help move us forward at this Sloan Gibson who will take on the -- -- acting secretary. Sloan became deputy secretary at the VA just three months ago but he too has devoted his life to serving our country and our veterans. Whose grandfather fought on the front lines of World War I. His father was trail -- in World War II. -- graduated from West Point earned his airborne -- ranger qualifications and served in the infantry. Most recently he was president and CEO of the USO. Which does a remarkable job supporting our men and women at war their families. Our wounded warriors and families of the fall. -- told Sloan has forty years of private sector and nonprofit experience that he brings to bear. -- our ongoing work to build a 21 century VA and I'm grateful that he is willing. To take on this task. I met with Sloan after -- that would -- this morning and made it clear that reform should not wait. They need to proceed immediately. I've also asked rob neighbors to stay to -- -- temporarily to help Sloan and the department through this transition. And -- completed his own review. The BHF. In the meantime we're gonna -- diligently for a new permanent VA secretary and we hope to confirm that successor to fill that post -- -- response. We're gonna do right by our veterans across the board. But as long as it takes. A -- -- stopped working to make sure that they get security benefits and -- opportunities -- -- of and they deserve. I said we won't tolerate misconduct and we will not. Assert that we have to do better and we will. They're too many veterans receiving care right now who deserve all of our best efforts and an honest assessment if something is not -- For this we go visit some of our men and women in uniform at different stages of their service. Our -- army officers who graduated from West Point. Our troops currently serving in Afghanistan. -- veterans and our military families at Arlington. When I saw. His -- -- and every single service member veteran military spouse I've had the privilege to me. Selfless. -- commitment to serving their country the best way that they now. They're the best that our country -- off. They do their duty. They expect us to do ours. So today I want every man and woman who served under our flag to know. What -- your tour. Has been over for decades or -- just about to -- We will never stop working to do right by you and your facts. -- -- a couple questions. Reassuring for -- What's changed here you know separation. Today usually you have all mention. Even coming in today it's it's. It's time for retirement what what made the difference -- -- judgment. I think his belief that. He would be a distraction from the task at hand. Which is to make sure that. What's broken gets facts so that. His fellow veterans are getting the services that they need. I want to reiterate. He is a very good -- I don't just mean is an accomplished -- I don't just mean that he's been an outstanding soldier. He's a good person. Who's done exemplary work. On our -- And under his leadership. We have seen. More progress. On more fronts the VA and -- bigger investment. In the VA. Than. Just about any other VA secretary. Cut -- earns almost seems like 24%. Brought in folks who have been exposed. Agent Orange through have been waiting for decades. To get the services and benefits -- -- better. Making sure that. Posttraumatic stress disorder. -- brain injury was dealt with -- serious way of making sure we had facilities for all women vets who all too often weren't receiving. The kind of specialized services. That they need. So he's been a champion. Our veterans. And where there's problems he has been ready and willing to get in there and -- so with the disability backlog that had. Shot up as a consequence. The admission of the Agent Orange. Veterans as well -- making it easier to apply for post dramatic stress disorder a disability claims. When it spiked. He went out and a systematic way we've now cut it by 50%. Over the course of the last year or so. He's not adverse to admitting where there's a problem. In going after. But. You know we occupy -- not just a an environment to calls for. Management fixes. We've also got a deal with congress and you guys and I figured it -- Judgment that he could not. Carry out the next stages of reform. Without being a distraction himself and so. In my assessment was unfortunately but it was right. I regret that. -- to resign under these circumstances but I also have confidence in Sloan and I share. Rich and -- his assessment that the number one priority. -- making sure that problems get fixed so that if there's a veteran out there who needs help that they are getting a schedule. And they're able to come and see your doctor. And that if their facilities that don't have enough doctors or do not have enough nurses -- not have enough space. That that information immediately gets in the hands of decision makers. All the way up to me and all the way to congress so that we can get more resources in there. To help folks. And that seems to be that the biggest problem I think that's the thing that offended. -- should second most during the course of this process. -- described to -- the fact that. When he was in theater. He might have to order an attack just based on a phone call from. Some twenty something year old corporal. And he's got to trust that he's getting good information and it's life -- death. And I think he is deeply -- disappointed in the fact that bad news did not get -- And that. The structures -- in place for him to identify this problem quickly. And fix it. His priority now is to make sure that happens. And he felt like new leadership would be. Would serve our veterans best and I -- -- -- President based on the he's clearly stated -- sectors and you. Is this incident was criminal wrongdoing and I guess more broadly. -- -- responsibilities you personally where this -- -- a huge campaign and care about -- security administration. Now we're at this point. Well. I will leave it up to the Justice Department make terminations in terms of whether there's been criminal wrongdoing. In terms responsibility as I've said before. There's my administration I always take responsibility. For whatever happens and this is an area that I have a particular concern with this. Pre -- my presidency when I was in the senate I was on the veterans. Affairs committee. I heard firsthand veterans who were not getting. The kinds of services and benefits that they -- -- And I pledged that if I had the privilege of serving as commander in chief and president that we would fix it. The VA is a big organization that. Has had problems for a very long time in some cases management problems in some cases funding problems. And so what we try to do is to systematically go after the problems that we were aware of it fits in where we have seen. Our veterans not being properly served. Whether it was too many homeless veterans. Or a disability claims process that was taking too long we would go at it. And chip away at it -- When it came to fund. We've increased funding for VA services. In unprecedented fashion because we understood that. It's not enough just to give lip service. To our veterans. But not be want to put our money where my office and so. What I can say confidently. Is that this has been a priority it's been a priority reflected in my budget. And that in terms of managing the VA where we have seen a problem when where we have been aware of a problem. We have gone after and fixed it. And have been able to make significant progress. But. What is absolutely clear is this morning. This issue of scheduling. Is one that. The reporting systems inside of the AHA did not surface to the level where Rick was aware of -- Or we were able to see it. This was not something that we were hearing when I was traveling around the country the particular issue of schedule. And what we're gonna have to -- part of the review is gonna have to BC how do we make sure that we get. Information about systems that are worked just was talking -- neighbors he's described to me for example distant. Very specific detail. How in some of these facilities you've got. Computer systems for scheduling debate back to. The nineties. The situations in which one scheduled might have to look at 45 different screens to figure out. Where there's a slot and where there might be a doctor -- Situations in which there manually passing. Requests for an appointment. Over to somebody else who's been important rights -- you have. In many cases old system's broken down systems this is stuff that isn't eminently fixable. But. We've got to know and that the big concern that I've got and what I'm going to be interest in finding out is. -- -- Is it that. In a number of these facilities. If in fact you have veterans were waiting too long for appointment. That that information to insert the sooner so we could go ahead and -- one last point -- wanna make on this. When veterans have gotten access to the system. The health care itself that they are receiving. Has gotten high marks from our veterans service organizations in the veterans themselves. So I think it's important to keep in mind that. What the review indicates so far at least is that. There have been great strides made in the actual care provided to veterans. The challenge is getting veterans. Into the door particularly. For their first appointment in some cases. And where they don't have an established relationship -- -- Dr. And they're not in the system. Part of that's going to be technology. Part of that is management. But as Erica -- second self indicated. There is indeed for a change in culture within the VH. And perhaps the VH as a whole or the BBA as a whole. That make sure that bad news gets. Surfaced quickly so that. Things can be fixed and I know that was the attitude of the sector -- -- and that was -- what he communicated to folks. Under a the -- -- Q and that's -- Christi Parsons last question. He sent it -- general judgment and make the decision for you here. And I remember correctly secretary's view is -- her resignation. For health care now. And you declined to take. I wonder there's a little bit scapegoating taking place here and it. -- -- -- Dysfunction and heart disease have been very deep very wide spread so it is. Not mopping up ahead of it really. The best -- going forward here is -- I think what I'm asking is there a political reasons for removing. Father and going straight to the top twelve here. The distractions that -- refers to -- -- political. He needs to be it at this stage what I want is somebody. At the VA who is not spending time. Outside of solving problems for the veterans. I want somebody spending every minute of every day figuring out -- we called every single veteran that's way. Have they gotten a schedule. Are we fixing the system. What got a -- technology doing it. Have we made a realistic assessment of how long the wait times are right now. And how are we gonna bring those were times down. In certain facilities where the where times are too long if we need more money. How much more money do we need to -- from congress. And how -- gonna make sure that congress delivers. On that additional funding. That's what I want somebody of the VA focused on. Not. Howard today. Getting second guessed and speculation about their futures and so forth and so on and that was what -- agreed -- as well. -- respect to secretary Sebelius at the time I thought it would be a distraction. To replace. Somebody jewishness. At a time when we're trying to fix that system. And I want to just stay focused because I knew that if -- Bear down on it and we got folks and -- it would work. So in in each instance. My primary. Decision is based on how can I deliver. Service to the American people and in this case how can I deliver. For our veterans and because they are people of integrity I think in both the cases of secretary Sebelius but certainly in the case here -- consecutive. They've got the same per -- of their view is what is it that is gonna best deliver. On behalf of folks who as -- said this morning have been let down. And he felt she had. So much knowledge about what had gone wrong that I couldn't afford to lose that right to somebody -- three months in leadership at the department have. The capacity. To sit attacked the problem quickly. Well we're gonna need a new VA secretary so loans at the Sloan -- acting. Sloan I think would be the first to acknowledge that he's gonna have a learning curve that he's got to deal with. But the nature of the problem that has -- system is has been the cause of this attention. Is one that we can start tackling right away and without. Completely transforming the system we can immediately. Make some progress we're gonna have some longer term issues that we're gonna have to take care so. My first step is everybody who's out there waiting to get him an appointment. If we need more doctors. Let's figure out how we conserve some doctors are -- make sure that they're getting the help that they need. What I wanted to make sure -- is that. Even if it's still patchwork how we make sure. That there's no slippage between somebody making a phone call and then getting an appointment scheduled. And let's be realistic time for -- -- -- Gergen appointment those are things. That don't require rocket science it requires execution. There of course discipline -- focus those -- things this won't pass. They're then gonna be some broader issues that we're gonna have to tackle. The information systems inside the VA -- Those are probably gonna have to be changed that will cost some money that will take some time and we'll have to be implement. They're they're gonna have to be some changes in the culture within the DH day. Because as I said they're providing very good service. Medical treatment to our veterans when they get in the system. But they don't have apparently. The state of the art. Operations. That you would want to see for example of a major medical center or hospital. -- -- keep in mind those of us were outside of the gates VA system and try to get an appointment where the doctor. In private sector and try to get an appointment. Four. Schedule for for a hospital visit. They're -- wait times as well so what part of what we have to do is figure out what -- realistic benchmarks. For the system and my suspicion is that we have. Not only all the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan coming back but also. The aging of our. Vietnam vets who may have more chronic illnesses may need more visits. We may need to get more doctors and we may need to get. More nurses and that's going to cost some money. Which means that's gonna be reflected. In. The veterans affairs budget which I have consistently increased. Even. During fiscally tight times there's been no area where -- put more priority than making sure that. We're delivering. The kind of budget that's necessary to. Make sure veterans are being served but it may still not be enough and we're -- but before we start spending. More money our first job is what's ticker some basic management issues that I think can be fixed right thank you. President Obama was palpable regret. Announcing that he -- accepted the resignation of the veterans affairs secretary direction sack he comes after meeting -- generations techie. This morning -- you where he presented a review of his own apartment which showed that the problems with the provision of health care to veterans across the country actually spread. From individual facilities across the country become a systemic. A problem I wanna go to Martha Raddatz is -- general shinseki for a long time. But it was very clear Martha the president did not want to do this he wanted to back general shinseki but as he said the general himself to determine that he had become a distraction to fixing these. Quitter among the veterans but you heard president Obama's much say this was a political decision as well and generals in -- thought he was a distraction. But it's also the public face he put on this general -- psyche is very impassive. He did it was not as strong handler of this situation he didn't really speak to the press he doesn't really speak to the public and you need a very strong passionate person to deal with something like this and especially. To speak to those veterans. Already getting some reaction from Capitol Hill to this the chairman of the house veterans affairs committee Jeff Miller says they are not going to get a honeymoon whoever replaces. General shinseki for now that will be Sloan Gibson. Who's the deputy secretary of veterans affairs now the acting secretary as the president said. He will go on a search now for a full time secretary of veterans affairs. We're gonna return not a regular programming for many -- in the west that is GMA -- before wrap up tonight on world news Diane Sawyer and doorstep and -- in New York. Have a good. This has been a special. -- --
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