Just hours before he quit Friday morning as secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, Eric Shinseki said he was sorry to homeless vets for the wait-list scandal that caused his downfall.
"I apologize as the senior leader of Veterans Affairs," he said at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. "That breach of integrity is irresponsible, it is indefensible and unacceptable to me.
"I also offer that apology to members of Congress who have supported me, to veterans service organizations who have been my partners for five years, and to the American people. All of them, all of them deserve better from the VA."
Shinseki admitted he was too trusting of some of his top managers, whom he said sometimes provided him with misleading reports.
"I can't explain the lack of integrity amongst some of the leaders of our healthcare facilities. This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform. And so I will not defend it, because it is indefensible. I can take responsibility for it, and I do," he said.
"Leadership and integrity problems can and must be fixed now," Shinseki said.
President Barack Obama met with Shinseki at 10:15 a.m. Friday for what the president called a "serious conversation" about whether Shinseki "is prepared and has the capacity" for the job.
Shinseki told the homeless veterans there will be no performance bonuses for senior VA officials this year and that waiting times will no longer factor into performance reviews. Lawmakers and VA officials have said bonuses encouraged hospital officials to manipulate wait lists.
"VA has a systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity with some of our veterans health facilities," Shinseki said.
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