Former GOP presidential candidate and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole says the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs is a "disaster" that's in dire need of a "shake-up."
But in an interview published Friday by USA Today,
the World War II hero — who won the Purple Heart but lost the use of his right arm during fighting in Italy — also said it was too soon to call for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki,
as many Republican and even some Democratic lawmakers have been doing.
"I have mixed feelings," he said. "He should stay until the White House gets this investigative report that they're doing, until we get the facts, and you see what you can lay at his feet and what his response has been. If the facts reveal that he neglected his duties, then he should go."
The former Kansas senator referenced his introduction of Shinseki at his confirmation hearings in 2009, where he praised the retired general as a "true American hero," and indicated his fraternity with another "wounded veteran."
"It's a disaster," Dole said of the scandal-plagued VA. "It's a culture that been built up over the years, and now it's come to a boiling point."
"You shouldn't keep a veteran waiting three months to see a doctor," he said. "I don't think it's funding. I think there needs to be shake-up."
Dole is deeply involved in veterans issues, and chaired a commission under President George W. Bush that addressed the care received by wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, The Hill
Though he asked for patience in judging Shinseki, Dole said President Barack Obama should have responded more quickly to the burgeoning scandal over doctored VA waiting lists that hid long delays in care for ailing veterans. It's been alleged that 40 veterans
died because of the lapses in care at the Phoenix VA facility.
"I don't want to be critical of the president, but he waited 23 days before he responded, and I think he should have done it sooner," Dole said.
Dole also took exception to tea party members of the Republican caucus in Congress, USA Today reports.
"Some of them are so far right they're going to fall out of the Capitol," Dole joked. "I don't know what they contribute if they're against everything."
The 90-year-old Dole has made two trips to his home state of Kansas over the past month and has another scheduled to begin Tuesday, USA Today reports.
"Just saying 'thank you,' " he said. "I mean, some of these people voted for me five times for the Senate."
He told the newspaper he hopes to make it to all 105 counties, "if my knee holds up." But not during the summer.
"It gets pretty warm in Kansas in July and August," he noted. "Plus you have the wheat harvest, and you don't want to bother people during that time."
He said he'll finish up in September.
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