(Adds Cornyn's call for resignation, Reid's defense of general,
WASHINGTON May 6 Two Republican U.S. senators
on Tuesday joined veterans groups in calling for Veterans
Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign amid claims that up to
40 people died while waiting for treatment in the U.S. veterans'
Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, said the Veterans Affairs
Department needed a "true transformation ... from top to
"I ask the secretary to submit his resignation and I ask
President (Barack) Obama to accept that resignation," Moran said
on the Senate floor.
Assistant Senate Republican leader John Cornyn said: "The
president needs to find a new leader to lead this organization
out of the wilderness, and back to providing the service our
But Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid defended Shinseki,
calling him "a fine man," and saying that allegations about the
VA need to be investigated.
"Whether there's substance to it or not, I don't know, but
it certainly doesn't call for the general to resign," Reid said.
"He's been given a tremendous burden. We have millions of
veterans who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan."
The calls for Shinseki's resignation came after the VA
secretary put the director of a Phoenix hospital on indefinite
leave last week as the department's inspector general probes
whistleblowers' claims that up to 40 veterans may have died
while waiting for medical appointments.
Two other hospital officials were also put on leave.
Veterans Affairs is the U.S. biggest healthcare system,
including 1,700 hospitals, clinics and other facilities with
nearly 9 million people enrolled.
The American Legion, the biggest U.S. veterans' group, and
Concerned Veterans for America called on Monday for Shinseki, a
former Army general twice wounded in Vietnam, to step down.
Representative Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican and head
of the House Veterans' Oversight and Investigations
Subcommittee, also urged Shinseki to resign on Monday.
Cornyn, a Texas Republican, called on the Senate on Monday
to hold hearings into the claims, which include a report by USA
Today that a VA investigation showed clerks at a VA clinic in
Colorado were told to falsify records to show faster treatment
Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, also asked
Shinseki on Monday to clarify the VA's investigation into the
suspected lack of care.
Obama on Monday expressed support for Shinseki and the VA
has defended his record.
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and
chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee in the Senate, has
also pushed back on calls for Shinseki's resignation.
He said on Monday that firing him "doesn't get us any closer
to the truth or solve problems that may exist."
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by G Crosse, Scott Malone
and Cynthia Osterman)