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Congress Votes to Subpoena Veterans Affairs Chief

“The president remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead..."

The House Veterans Affairs Committee voted Thursday to subpoena VA Secretary Eric Shinseki over allegations his department may have mistreated former U.S. soldiers.

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) looks on as US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki waves to a friend during a visit the Vietnam Memorial wall on Veterans Day November 11, 2013, in Washington, DC. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) looks on as US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki waves to a friend during a visit the Vietnam Memorial wall on Veterans Day November 11, 2013, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

The subpoena will require that the VA chief turn over dozens of emails, some of which may contain evidence that Veterans Affairs officials discussed destroying a so-called “secret list” used by a VA in Phoenix, CNN reported.

Multiple VA facilities allegedly falsified wait times for veterans seeking medical attention. Further, as many as 40 veterans are believed to have died while waiting for treatments.

The House committee agreed to the subpoena in a voice vote.

Following reports of the agency's widespread misconduct, Shinseki has resisted multiple calls for his resignation, saying earlier this week that he serves "at the pleasure" of President Barack Obama.

"I signed on to make some changes. I have work to do," he told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday.

As of this writing, the White House stands with Shinseki, telling TheBlaze this week that Obama is confident in the VA chief's abilities.

“The president remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the department and to take appropriate action based on the IG’s findings,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said in an email.

“As the president said last week, we take the allegations around the Phoenix situation very seriously,” Inouye said. “That’s why he immediately directed Secretary Shinseki to investigate, and Secretary Shinseki has also invited the independent Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive review. We must ensure that our nation’s veterans get the benefits and services that they deserve and have earned.”

But despite the White House's assurance that the current VA chief is up to the task of overseeing the troubled agency, several top lawmakers and veterans advocacy have called for Shinseki to step down from his post.

“With all the problems the VA has had over the last several years, it’s time for new leadership,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the senior Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, told Politico this week. “I have no hope you can accomplish any changes with the current regime.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), another member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, also called for Shinseki’s resignation Tuesday, saying Congress will look closely at allegations of corruption and abuse by the VA.

“There is a difference in wanting change and leading it to happen,” Moran said. “I’m demanding accountability and true transformation in the VA system and its culture from top to bottom and all across the country. Secretary Shinseki seemingly is unwilling or unable to do so, and change must be made at the top.”

The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans advocacy group, called on Shinseki to resign Monday.

“As national commander of the nation’s largest veterans service organization, it is with great sadness that I call for the resignations of Secretary Shinseki, Under Secretary of Health Robert Petzel and Under Secretary of Benefits Allison Hickey,” American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger said.

The American Legion was joined Monday by Concerned Veterans for America whose CEO added in a statement: "We're proud to stand with The American Legion as they take this courageous and historic stand. As America's largest veterans organization, their moral authority on this issue is unimpeachable. We applaud their demands for accountability at the very top of the Department of Veterans Affairs."

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

This post has been updated.

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