UPDATE: Shinseki resigns amid veterans' health care issues - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Shinseki resigns amid veterans' health care issues

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MADISON (WKOW) -- President Obama announced Friday the secretary of the Veterans Affairs office is stepping down.

Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation follows widespread troubles in the VA system. It all started when allegations came out that up to 40 veterans died waiting for care at a VA hospital in Phoenix. Others came forward saying VA administrators were keeping secret wait lists, lying about delays in care.

A report from the inspector general released Wednesday details the troubles at that Phoenix facility and determines there is "systemic" misconduct throughout the VA.

The president said he accepted Shinseki's resignation in an effort to fix the problems nationwide.

"Everybody's who's out there waiting, get them an appointment," President Obama says. "If we need more doctors, let's figure out how we can surge some doctors in there to make sure they're getting the help that they need. What I want to make sure of then is that even if it's still patchwork, how do we make sure that there's no slippage between somebody making a phone call and them getting an appointment scheduled and let's have a realistic time for how soon they will get an appointment."

Just before the announcement Friday, Shinseki apologized for the scandal while speaking at a homeless veterans advocacy group meeting.

"I apologize as the senior leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs," Shinseki says. "I extend an apology to the people whom I care most deeply about and that's the veterans of this great country; to their families and loved ones who I have been honored to serve for over 5 years now, it's a call of a lifetime. I also offer that apology to members ofCongresss who have supported me, to veteran service organizations who have been my partners for 5 years and to the American people. All of them, all of them deserve better from the VA."

Dane County veterans service officer Dan Connery tells 27 News he's not surprised to hear of Shinseki's resignation amid the pressure to find a solution.

The Dane County office is not affiliated with the federal agency but its officers work closely with the county's veterans to help them use the VA's services. Connery says the care is good at the VA hospital in Madison but he's heard stories of less than ideal care elsewhere.

Connery hopes to see a replacement secretary who is a veteran with public policy and healthcare knowledge to bring the needed change to the agency.

"It's certainly important to increase access to healthcare, increase access to benefitsandd really whatever helps to serve our veterans in the best and most efficient manner," says Connery.

He says despite the reports of misconduct nationwide, the VA has made progress in recent years when it comes to modernizing technology and encouraging veterans to become more involved in their claims for care and benefits.

The VA has acknowledged 23 deaths due to delayed care. The inspector general is investigating 42 centers nationwide.

The president has called on Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson to take Shinseki's place as interim secretary until a permanent replacement is chosen.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned amid widespread troubles in the VA health care system.
   President Barack Obama says he accepted the resignation with "considerable regret." He and Shinseki met in the Oval Office on Friday morning.
   Shinseki had faced mounting calls to step down from lawmakers in both parties.
   Shinseki's resignation comes two days after a scathing internal report found broad and deep-seated problems in the sprawling health care system. The system provides care to about 6.5 million veterans annually.
   Shinseki is a retired four-star Army general who has overseen the VA since the start of Obama's presidency.

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