Pressure Grows on Chief of Veterans Affairs

Politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
12:58 | 05/29/14

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Transcript for Pressure Grows on Chief of Veterans Affairs
This is a special room. When I was injured I had some remaining vision. And I had it for three years and then I -- an infection with the VA. And the doctors didn't have access to. The proper medical. Data. So they failed to do preventative surgeries. And when I had an emergency situation. They didn't have access to the medical documentation and which may have. Led to that division lost the -- After the surgery. That was Iraq War veteran Travis you get rewarded on patrol in May 2005. Today testifying. That it was a failure of the veterans affairs hospitals. That cost him. What was left of his vision hello everyone I'm Michelle Franzen in new York new details today in the VA health care scandal. And following the preliminary inspector general report. Now more calls from both Republicans and Democrats for secretary ericsson's -- to leave his post at least 88 members of congress including 22 Democrats. And eight major candidates in these coming midterm elections have requested since that he resign or be fired. With the latest now from Washington we're joined by ABC's Karen Travers care. Good afternoon Michelle Erickson said he is certainly on the hot seat and this afternoon -- the VA headquarters just a couple blocks away from here at the White House. He -- sit down with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and that of course. Is expected to be -- tense meeting. And that growing chorus on Capitol Hill is bipartisan Democrats and Republicans are asking nation's psyche to step down. We're asking President Obama to fire him. Nearly 2000 veterans put on secret waiting list lost in the VA health care system these are criminal. And the pressure keeps growing for VA secretary Eric Shinseki to resign he -- to be held accountable. According to the VA's internal investigation 17100 veterans at the Phoenix Arizona VA hospital. Were forced to weighted average of 115. Days to get a first appointment. The hospital kept secret lists a cover up how long it took to get treatment. The interim report says veterans are at risk of being lost or forgotten. And they never obtain -- requested or required primary care. And it doesn't end there. Investigators say the problem is quote systemic throughout the VE -- there are now 42. -- health centers around the nation that are under scrutiny. The report found no evidence so far that the delays in Phoenix caused any deaths. But whistle -- Samuel Foote a doctor at that hospital told ABC news he personally witnessed patients die. One and was. Having chest pain could get in this is doctor. And had died of a heart attack here in Washington lawmakers from both parties are in lining up to demand secretary should -- he resign or be fired. But house speaker John Boehner stop short is him resigning. Going to get us to the bottom of the problem. Is it gonna help us find. Out what's really went wrong and they that's right you give him as. -- Michelle those who know secretary since Jackie wells say he's not someone who is likely to quit in his fight for veteran's. President Obama would have to fire him. Michelle -- Karen President Obama is not one to dismiss cabinet members lightly he stuck by Kathleen Sebelius during that obamacare mass. How much pushing and from whom. Could it take for -- President Obama to reconsider. This is of course different in -- -- as you noted that when he came to Kathleen to Dili -- you have support from Democrats who said you have to let this run its course you have to stick it out she had to stay in that position right now the president is hearing from members of his own party as you mentioned Democrats or in some tough reelection races and here's the difference -- veterans in every district every member of congress is gonna get phone calls and letters from somebody that could have been affected. By a bad health care system by a bad treatment by something that went wrong at one of these VA hospitals and they're not gonna stand for that's I think when you start getting that increasing pressure from members of congress. President is going to take action but as you heard from any other day. He said he was going to stick by -- since psyche is so long as it seemed that he could fix this problem he's expected to get that report from the secretary. Later today could act in the next morning for hours if President Obama thinks -- -- psyche cannot fix this problem. That's likely means he is on his way out shall. ABC's Karen Travers at the White House thank you from the White House to Capitol Hill where we -- joined now by ABC news senior Washington correspondent Jeff Celanese. Jeff as we noted that the tops war members of congress of -- increasingly national political figures and organizations calling fortunes -- to leave. Do you think that could happen soon or at all. Michelle I think there's little question that. That general -- -- will be able to stay indefinitely as a cabinet secretary. I think it Karen Travers is absolutely right this is very different than Kathleen Sebelius. We see it's several members in the president's own party calling for this in fact everyone who has a tough for reelection is calling for the resident. Nation of general question sexy but what I was struck by speaker Boehner is not. I was at that news conference that -- we heard a little bit of sound from a few minutes ago and speaker Boehner says look that is not going to solve the problem herself. That I'm told is behind the thinking of what's really going on the White House now. They cannot just accept someone's resignation in fact they have to find someone they have to appoint someone a big name perhaps someone who has credibility. Who can solve this problem so it's not just about the resignation it's about finding someone who cannot fix this mess. And Jeff I'm I know that you heard from speaker Boehner on one on one today I want to address some of those issues of what you heard let's listen. You said it's it's more than one person it's about a system. I think it's pretty clear that general shinseki will resign at some point. You know the president's own party to -- things -- running who should replace him what type of person do you think is needed to restore credibility he well I think first though we need to figure out how we're gonna get to the bottom of all of the problems is to VA. This is more. Than just about -- -- analyst. Assault also about the quality of care that we provide for our veterans. Others a serious problem here and we need to get to the bottom of the before. Would begin to prescribe but what the diagnosis it is four for treatment to fix -- problem. And how much of this are you hearing on the hill what we just heard from Boehner the idea that just fire engines that he won't change much and could be a distraction. And we're hearing a lot of that and and frankly this is an easy thing to do in a midterm election year is to issue a press release. They're saying that this cabinet secretaries should resign that's the easy part the hard part is actually solving this problem but we are going to. -- is suddenly become a big issue of the summertime something we really weren't expecting here there's going to be legislation in the house as well as in the senate. To really address some of the the fundamental issue here and that is the huge backlog. There are so many veterans who are coming -- Silly veterans who need a services you know from different wars as well so I don't know what we're hearing now for the first time people in both parties sank. They're going to have to spend a lot of money here to build new V8 senators. There's going to be discussion of privatizing VA -- -- this resignation. It's just. You know the easy part in some respects me. The rebuilding and re organizing of the VA system is something we're going to be talking about here four quite awhile. And at the same time and same press conference congressman Kevin McCarthy spoke about a letter he and his -- sent to the president when did that letter go out. Three he is saying that Kevin McCarthy is calling. On the White House trying to call out the White House for yes. Saying it's very difficult for them two say we didn't know about this at the time so we're still asking some of those questions. Who knew what when you know I should the president have been more. Up to speed on this but I think that's quickly going to be beside the point and I think we are hearing some of that from speaker Boehner as well. They were reality here. You know we talk a lot about scandals in Washington you know been Ghazi and other things this is more of a crisis -- a scandal these are real. People real patients being affected. -- Republicans and Democrats alike this is not a partisan issue here so I think when people knew and other things. It's not as important as what will be done to fix this problem. -- -- he wrote an op Ed in USA today sane at the end that quote after 38 years in the army I am honored and privileged to serve veterans as the secretary of veterans affairs. And I remain committed to providing a high quality care and benefits that veterans have earned and deserve and we will. Can you tell us a little bit more about -- -- -- history in the military and as the leader of the VA right now. -- Michelle he is a decorated war hero he is says -- as honored and and is revered as it comes in the military. I'm in the military here that's why this is a so different offices and some bureaucrat who's leading some government agency here he. Feels the veterans' needs in his bones he is deeply affected by that but look that. Op Ed in this morning's USA today was posted on line shortly after 10 o'clock this morning he is. -- least it. It looks like committed to I'm staying in now role so we're not exactly sure I'm the timing of all of this but -- once the president receives that. Report perhaps later today or tomorrow it's believed by most everyone knows who I've talked to -- said the administration and here on Capitol Hill that it would be untenable. For general -- -- -- -- but perhaps he could third move aside a little bit and still help out in some capacity but it -- And whenever there's some big moment like this it's hard to move on to the next step unless someone else's sort of leading the charge here. But. One without question -- -- this is. Cabinet secretary who was confirmed -- by a 100%. Of the senate back in 09 he was introduced by John McCain. He is very very well thought of here -- -- perhaps this is an all. His fault but it is happening on his watch. And Jeff there was a bill also in the senate last year to expand aid to the VA what happened to that bill. -- like a lot of bills. Things like that costs money so I think it's just a generally get that held up I'm not sure specifically. On the exact -- you're speaking about we're going to hear a lot more talk of legislation next week and I think we are going to hear. Even. Some some fiscal conservatives and Republicans talk about putting. Money behind some of these new programs here. I mean you know with this new influx of people coming into the VA coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan you know beats the system simply is not big enough. To handle all of this I think we're going to hear a lot more and see a lot more progress on on -- legislation. You know certainly we've also heard as you mentioned that should not be a partisan -- you at all there have been problems. Long before any administration had come -- but we've also heard a lot from Senator John McCain and what is his solution for fixing the VA. I asked Senator McCain that in the hallway last week after the president address this for the first time and and and he said that veterans need to be given. From. More choices and how they get their health care they need to be treated more sort of the humanely in more in the private that's. Sector and other things but. One example is getting a voucher and going to -- a local doctor as opposed to having to travel in some cases a very long distance. To a VA center -- you're going to hear all kinds. And possible solutions to this that he is very critical Senator McCain is very critical of president Obama's leadership on this site yet he raised it it. In the presidential campaign in 2008. And he says that this administration just does not understand. Necessarily what these veterans are going through so he is definitely going to be a leader on this at least from the Republican side. ABC news senior Washington correspondent -- felony. Thank you and we will be watching this issue very closely the shelf it. This has been an ABC news digital special report keep up with this story in real time by downloading the ABC news that. And starring the story for exclusive updates on ago. For now I'm Michelle Franzen in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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