U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat and Iraq War veteran, says it was time for Eric Shinseki to resign and make room for "new leadership" at the scandal-soaked Veterans Affairs department.
"Our first priority should be the veterans and at this point whether Secretary Shinseki will stay or go is too much of a distraction,” she told the Washington Post Friday, moments before Shinseki stepped down from his post as VA secretary after five years at the helm.
"I think he has to go. He certainly loves veterans, but it’s time for new leadership, it’s time to get someone in who will put veterans first. We’ve moved away from veterans being the primacy of the conversation. It’s now a political discussion and that’s not where it should be when it comes to our nation’s heroes," she continued.
Duckworth, who lost both legs in combat during the Iraq war, worked for Shinseki as the VA's assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs from 2009 to 2011 following a stint as director for the Illinois Departmenf of Veterans Affairs. She was elected to Congress last year.
Shinseki's resignation came in response to mounting outrage over reports that veterans hospitals manipulated waiting lists to cover up delays in patient health care. In damning revelations on Wednesday, the VA inspector general reported "systemic" book-cooking inside facilities stemming all the way back to 2005. It was also revealed that more than 1,500 veterans were left off an official waiting list at a Phoenix hospital, where dozens of patients died awaiting treatment.
"The inspector general's office has clearly stated they’re looking at literally dozens of other facilities and we just don’t have the time to waste on political discussions when veterans need care," said Duckworth.