Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki vowed Thursday his department was "re-doubling its efforts ... to earn [veterans'] trust," pleading his case to the American Legion – the very group that was among the first to call for his ouster.
In a statement on the website
of the nation's largest vets' service organization, with 2.4 million members, Shinseki said he takes "any allegations about patient safety or employee misconduct very seriously," adding "the reports of veterans’ negative experiences while seeking VA care are of great personal concern to me."
Allegations of phony wait-lists that masked long delays in care to ailing vets have rocked the VA – and the White House.
While commending the VA's work, Shinseki promised the agency "will do even better," adding: "If any allegations under review are substantiated, we will act."
"As we approach our observance of Memorial Day and its special significance to our nation, VA is re-doubling its efforts, with integrity and compassion, to earn your trust," he said.
The statement comes just a day after Louis Celli, director of the legislative division of the Legion, said the organization had lost all confidence.
"Secretary Shinseki was brought in specifically after being Chief of Staff for the Army to change the culture of the VA," Celli told CNN, according to a transcript of the remarks posted by the Washington Free Beacon.
"At one point, the American Legion even stood behind him and defended him, and we’ve just lost confidence."
Celli added that Shinseki "at this point ... is nothing more than a distraction."
"The only time that we’re going to be able to watch the VA start to heal and get better is after this leadership is done, we start to infuse new leadership, we start to clean it up from the middle, from the bottom and from the top."
Last week, American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger repeated the organization's call for Shinseki to resign.
And since then, the calls have grown louder – and more bipartisan.
The latest official to add his demand for Shinseki's resignation is former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist,
who's running as a Democrat to reclaim his old job.
"[W]hile we don't know precisely what happened here, we do know that there must be accountability and confidence in leadership in order to get to the truth and provide veterans the medical care they've earned and deserve," he said in a statement, Talking Points Memo
reports. "That confidence is gone. I think it would be best if the Secretary stepped down and allowed others to get the VA fixed once and for all."
Earlier Thursday, Kentucky Secretary of State and Democrat candidate for the Senate Alison Lundergan Grimes
also urged Shinseki to resign.
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