House Speaker John Boehner says that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation “changes nothing,” and vowed to hold President Obama accountable for the misconduct at veteran hospitals throughout the country.
“Until the president outlines a vision and an effective plan for addressing the broad dysfunction at the VA, today’s announcement really changes nothing,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters from his office at the Capitol today. “One personnel change cannot be used as an excuse to paper over a systemic problem. Our veterans deserve better. We’ll hold the president accountable until he makes things right.”
Boehner called on the president to order the Department of Veterans Affairs to fully comply with a congressional subpoena and pressure the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass the VA Management Accountability Act, which sailed through the House on a bipartisan vote 390-33 on May 21.
“The president needs to outline his vision for how do we get to the bottom of the problems at the VA and how do we make sure that those veterans who are waiting for care get access to care sooner rather than later,” Boehner said. “If the waiting times at the VA continue as they are, we’ve got to find a way to get veterans the care they need now.”
“General Shinseki has dedicated his life to our country, and we thank him for his service. His resignation, though, does not absolve the president of his responsibility to step in and make things right for our veterans,” he added. “Business as usual cannot continue.”
At least 129 members of Congress, including 43 Democrats, called on Shinseki to step down prior to the announcement today. Boehner was not among this group.
Rep. Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the resignation “is not enough” and continued to demand the Department of Justice launch a criminal investigation to determine whether any officials tried to cover up the alleged misconduct.
“If anybody engaged in any kind of cover ups, if they doctored lists, if they kept patients off of lines, in my view that deserves a criminal inquiry by the Department of Justice,” Israel, D-N.Y., said. “I believe a criminal investigation will help get to the root of this problem and help clean up the systems that are at fault here.”
House Majority Eric Cantor said he is still “disturbed” it took so long for the White House to pay attention to allegations that improper actions led to delayed care for hundreds of veterans, and possibly death, given that the problem “has been going on for years.”
“The president has to own you know what’s going on and fix it,” Cantor, R-Va., said. “Where we have to focus though is on the veterans. How are we going to hold this VA accountable? How are we going to get the veterans the care that they need and frankly deserve?”
Upon learning the news, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, the most senior member of Congress to call on Shinseki to resign, said the underlying structure of the VA healthcare system needed to be reformed. “It’s not just one person that’s going to change it all,” he said. “It’s the overall foundation and so we need to take the time now, put the priorities on the care of the veterans themselves and be able to move forward. I know Shinseki has served this country well. I applaud his service to the country. I just think the structural problems at the VA are too large for one person to change. We gotta make the whole new structural change.”