May 23, 2014 9:01 AM EDT

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel lent his support to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki amid an ongoing veterans’ health care scandal, but said in an interview Friday that someone needs to be held accountable for the poor treatment of military veterans.

“Anytime there is an issue or a problem or a veteran doesn’t get service, or certainly if a veteran dies because he or she doesn’t get service, or anytime there’s an issue, there’s no higher responsibility our country has than to these people who serve and sacrifice,” Hagel said during an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning.

But Hagel stopped short of calling on Shinseki to resign over reports that at least 40 military veterans died while waiting for treatment at a VA health center.

“I support Secretary Shinseki,” Hagel said. “ This is an individual who has the responsibility, as he has said, to be accountable. The President said yesterday that there has to be accountability. There does have to be accountability on — right up and down the line. But I think we’ve got to fix the problem. That’s the real focus here.”

Watch the full interview at CBS This Morning.

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