Word of the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki Friday, May 30, came as U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee campaigned with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Germantown.
Alexander said he respected Shinseki’s decision to resign amid evidence of misconduct and mismanagement at Veterans Affairs hospitals across the nation.
A critical report released in October by the VA inspector general highlighted “preventable deaths” of veterans at the Memphis VA Medical Center.
“That doesn’t get to the bottom of what happened,” Alexander said of Shinseki’s resignation. “We need to get to the facts. My goal is to get to the bottom of it.”
The office staff of Alexander and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker have recently been visiting Veterans Affairs hospitals and other facilities across the state.
“We should give them access to the health care in the same way that we give them access to college,” Alexander said of veterans. “Over time, we should say to them, ‘Here’s a voucher, here’s the money. Go choose your own health care.’”
He described Shinseki as a “respected military hero” and criticized President Barack Obama for not going to Shinseki sooner to get a handle on the problems.
“The president does not show the characteristics of an executive leader. I cannot imagine not stepping into this more quickly,” he added. “The president should have called him in immediately and said, ‘I need to know what’s going on.’”
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen said Shinseki's resignation acknowledges that Veterans Affairs "needs a new beginning with the focus firmly placed on our veterans."
"While his resignation will not solve the systemic and severe problems at the VA that have called into questions the care provided to our nation's heroes, I hope that it will convince some in Congress that not every solution begins with spending cuts," the Memphis Democrat said in a written statement.
U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher said in a written statement that problems at the Veteran Affairs department are “systemic and extend far beyond any one person.”
The Frog Jump Republican called Shinseki’s resignation a “first step in the right direction.”
“But we must hold the VA accountable for its actions and negligence and fundamentally change the way they treat our veterans,” Fincher added in the statement.