Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign for falsely claiming to Congress that the VA had no problems with long wait times for veterans seeking health care.
Speaking at a press conference in his home state, McCain said Shinseki told him in a letter that the long wait times seen at the VA's Veterans Health Administration had been resolved, and were no longer occurring.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki needs to be fired for lying to Congress about the veterans' access to health care. (AP Photo/Matt York)
McCain said the letter "basically said that when the new leadership came on board, they initiated a consistent application of the VHA's use of the electronic waiting list. In other words, saying that basically everything was fine."
"We know ... that letter that Gen. Shinseki sent me was absolutely false," McCain added.
He spoke on the same day that the VA's Inspector General released a report that said problems with veterans' access to health care remain "systemic" at the VA's Phoenix Health Care System, and that 1,700 veterans are still not officially on a wait list today even though they are seeking care.
That report seems to indicate that the VA is still manipulating data to make it look like veterans are not waiting long for health care, mostly by keeping them off official wait lists.
McCain said Shinseki's prior response to congressional inquiries cannot be squared with the IG report.
"General Shinseki did not give us an accurate response to our inquiry," he said. "When you ask for information from an agency of government, and that information is false, then the person responsible for that should be held responsible."
Like many others have in the last few weeks, McCain called on Shinseki to resign over Wednesday's news, and said President Barack Obama needs to fire him if Shinseki does not leave on his own.
"[I]f Secretary Shinseki does not step down voluntarily, then I call on the president of the United States to relieve him of his duties, to fire him," he said.
McCain was joined by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who agreed that Shinseki should either step down or be fired by Obama.
The two senators also said the Obama administration needs to bring criminal charges against officials involved in the scandal.
"I believe that this issue has reached a level that requires the Justice Department's involvement," McCain said. "These allegations are not just administrative problems. These are criminal problems. We need the FBI and the Department of Justice to be involved in this investigation."
The senators said they will soon try to move legislation that would make it easier to fire any VA official involved, something the House has already passed, as well as language that gives veterans more health care options.
McCain also criticized Obama for failing to take corrective actions at the VA, saying it was "bewildering" that Obama waited a few weeks before addressing the problem. McCain said Obama should convene an experts group to come up with recommendations for fixing the VA.
"So far he's done none of that," McCain said.