Updated 6:22 p.m. | The White House is backing Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki after he faced calls to resign Monday over allegations that veterans died waiting for care in Phoenix and other problems in his department.
"As the President said last week, we take the allegations around the Phoenix situation very seriously," said Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman. "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," he said.
"We must ensure that our nation’s veterans get the benefits and services that they deserve and have earned. The President remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the Department and to take appropriate action based on the IG’s findings."
Earlier Monday, the American Legion called on Shinseki to resign, although the Veterans of Foreign Wars declined to do so. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he wants the investigation to go forward first. Later Monday, Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., the chairman of the House Veterans' Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, called on Shinseki to resign "due to chronic mismanagement and systemic failures of the VA under his leadership, ranging from dramatic cost overruns in major construction projects to glaring patient safety problems," according to a press release. "Secretary Shinseki has failed to provide any leadership for this organization and instead he has allowed himself to be led by a circle of incompetent and corrupt bureaucrats who have long forgotten that they are there for the sole purpose of serving those who have sacrificed so much on behalf of this nation," Coffman said.
"If he had these same responsibilities as an Army officer he would have been relieved a long time ago for his lack of leadership. If he fails to resign then the President, as the Commander-in-Chief, has a duty to fire him for gross incompetence."
Coffman cited the Phoenix VA, huge cost overruns at VA hospitals and big backlogs for care.
"Secretary Shinseki was an Army infantry officer and the motto for Army infantry is lead, follow or get out of the way. It's time for him to get out of the way," said Coffman, a former Marine.