Veterans Affairs Secretary Defends Response Amid Scandal

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Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki publicly defended in an op-ed Thursday his department’s response to findings of poor treatment of former servicemen and women.

“We are doing all we can to accelerate access to care throughout our system and in communities where veterans reside,” Shinseki wrote in USA Today. “I’ve challenged our leadership to ensure we are doing everything possible to schedule veterans for their appointments.”

The VA chief has faced calls to resign from members of both parties since reports surfaced that at least 40 military veterans died while waiting for treatment at a VA health center in Phoenix, though he has retained the backing of the White House. An internal interim report released Wednesday found “systemic” problems in the department, including that 1,700 veterans were waiting for care but missing from the system’s official wait list.

In the op-ed Thursday, Shinseki—a retired 4-star general—called the report’s findings “reprehensible” and said the VA is contacting each of the 1,700 veterans.

“We are not waiting to set things straight,” Shinseki wrote, also highlighting an internal audit of the VA health care facilities that he ordered earlier this month. “More than 200 senior staff are conducting that audit now, and we expect to announce the initial results of that audit in the coming days,” he added.

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