WASHINGTON May 8 Veterans Administration
Secretary Eric Shinseki rejected calls for his resignation as a
congressional committee voted to subpoena him on Thursday over
allegations that his department caused deadly delays for
veterans' healthcare at some of its hospitals.
The American Legion and two Republican U.S. senators have
called for Shinseki to step down following reports on
whistleblowers' claims that up to 40 veterans died while waiting
for appointments or specialist care at the VA hospital in
The House Veterans Affairs Committee by voice vote approved
the subpoena ordering Shinseki and other top VA officials to
produce all emails and written correspondence sent between April
9 and May 8 related to the disappearance or destruction of a
secret patient wait list at the Phoenix hospital.
"The last few weeks have been a model of VA stonewalling,
which precipitated the need for a subpoena," said the
committee's chairman, Republican Representative Jeff Miller.
Miller said the VA has repeatedly failed to provide
information about the wait list to the committee.
In an interview aired early on Thursday, Shinseki told CBS
News that he would not quit because he had a job to deliver
healthcare to veterans.
"I just want veterans to know that healthcare is something
they earned and deserve. We're going to deliver it, it is
high-quality and I want them to believe that when they walk into
our facilities, they're safe," he said.
Shinseki, a former four-star general in the U.S. Army who
lost part of a foot to a land mine during the Vietnam War, added
that reports about poor VA healthcare make him "angry," but he
did not directly address the allegations surrounding the Phoenix
"All of this makes me angry. Whenever we have allegations
like this," he said. "I didn't come here to watch things happen
this way. I came here to make things better."
CNN has reported citing sources as saying that VA officials
covered up long wait times at the Phoenix hospital, with as many
as 1,400 veterans placed on a secret waiting list that was later
Shinseki has put the director of the Phoenix VA hospital on
indefinite leave as the department's inspector general probes
the whistleblowers' claims. Two other hospital officials were
also put on leave.
Republican Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and John Cornyn of
Texas earlier this week called for Shinseki to resign.
But House Speaker John Boehner, also a Republican, did not
follow suit on Thursday, saying that a management change at the
top will not solve long-term problems at the VA.
"I'm not ready to join the chorus of people calling for him
to step down. The problems at the VA are systemic. It's the
backlog," Boehner told his weekly news conference.
The Veterans Affairs Committee subpoena gives the VA until
May 19 to respond. The panel will then consider next steps in
its investigation into the matter, a committee aide said.
Veterans Affairs is the U.S. biggest healthcare system,
including 1,700 hospitals, clinics and other facilities with
nearly 9 million people enrolled.
(Reporting by David Lawder, editing by G Crosse)