Veterans, politicians respond to VA Secretary's resignation

Eric Shinseki steps down amid Veterans Affairs controversy

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After publicly apologizing for the failures in the VA Hospital system, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki announced his resignation Friday morning.

The news came as a surprise to some because Shinseki hadn't hinted he would step down, even after President Barack Obama faced mounting calls from members of both parties to remove him.

Shinseki's resignation came just hours after Obama received an update that reveals there are several troubled VA facilities that aren't operating up to par.

The news spread fast at the VA Clinic in Jacksonville, where U.S. veterans expressed their opinions on the VA's top official stepping down.

"I think it's going to be for the better," said veteran Bruce Coontz. "These veterans need help now, not down the road."

But others said they wished Shinseki would have stayed to help fix the VA's problem on his own.

"I don't think it's personally going to do any good," said Vietnam veteran Claude Goodwin. "If they appoint somebody else, they'll think the problem is solved. I would have rather seen him not step down and had a chance to straighten things out."

The president said Shinseki stepped down on his own, saying he didn't want to be a distraction to future changes in the hospital system.

Sen. Bill Nelson, who just last week said "heads need to roll" regarding the VA issues, said Shinseki's resignation offers a chance to move on.

"There ought to be a lot of heads rolling, because there is something in the culture of the VA that is not responding to serve our veterans the very best they deserve," Nelson said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the news was a step forward.

"Our administration will hold the VA accountable to the veterans they serve," Scott said. "In order to accomplish this goal, a big injection of transparency and accountability is needed."

Congresswoman Corrine Brown said she was disappointed by Shinseki's resignation.

"While he felt he would have been a distraction going forward to resolve the issues brought to light in Phoenix, I feel Secretary Shinseki was the person most capable of fixing these things," Brown said.

Obama said other top-ranking officials in Phoenix's VA facility were fired for their part in the mismanagement. Local veterans said they hope to see some shakeup here in Florida.

"I think they are understaffed, but they have too many high-ranking officials at the top," said veteran Junius Thorn. "They need to get rid of some of them and staff some of the small areas here."

Many of the Veterans Channel 4 spoke with Friday night are happy to see Secretary Shinseki go.

"Needs to happen. It's just utter chaos in there, four different addresses for dependency claims and they're all going to the same place," said Veteran, Datha Taylo.

"The best thing that could've ever happened to veterans of the United States," said Veteran, Raymond McMillion.

Shinseki's resignation could be just the beginning of the fallout for Veterans Affairs. Some are calling for a criminal investigation into the deaths of veterans who received inadequate care.

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