House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday warned that the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki doesn’t mean that much unless President Barack Obama presents a plan to fix problems at the VA that have delayed health care services to thousands of veterans.
“His resignation… does not absolve the president of his responsibility to step in and make things right for our veterans,” Boehner said of Shinseki. “Business as usual cannot continue.”
“Until the president outlines a vision and an effective plan for addressing the broad dysfunction at the VA, today’s announcement really changes nothing,” he added. “One personnel change cannot be used as an excuse to paper over a systemic problem.”
“Our veterans deserve better. We’ll hold the president accountable until he makes things right.”
Boehner was among the members of Congress who did not call for Shinseki’s resignation, and said he wanted to be sure that removing Shinseki did not stall progress in fixing the VA.
Boehner called on the Senate to pass a House bill that would make it easier for the VA to fire senior officials involved in the healthcare delays and the coverup. Senate Republicans tried to call up that bill last week, but Senate Democrats agreed to prevent its passage until more information was known about the scandal.
Boehner also said President Obama should order the VA to cooperate with Congress’s investigation of the issue, and then outline his plan for fixing the problems at the agency.
“If the waiting times at the VA continue as they are, we’ve got to find a way to get veterans the care they need now.”
Just hours before Shinseki resigned, he delivered a speech that said the VA is already taking steps to fix the problem. These include removing senior leaders at the Phoenix Health Care System, ensuring no senior officials get bonuses this year, and ending the use of healthcare wait times as a basis for handing out bonuses.
Boehner rejected the idea that Shinseki’s resignation was driven by politics, and said it was instead driven by the clear fact that the VA was systematically delaying health benefits to veterans.
“I think there was broad, bipartisan concern about what’s happening at the VA and the treatment that is being denied to our veterans,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) responded to the resignation by thanking Shinseki for his service to the country, and said the decision to fire senior VA officials was a “good first step.” Reid also said he would ensure the Senate takes steps to improve the VA.
“I will do everything I can to ensure that the Congress works to address the root causes of these systematic problems so that the men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and those veterans already in the VA system, receive the care they deserve,” he said.