Ex-Sen. Kerrey: Shinseki 'Lost the Confidence' of Veterans

Monday, 19 May 2014 11:18 AM

By Wanda Carruthers

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Eric Shinseki, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, has "lost the confidence" of veterans, VA employees, and Congress, and President Barack Obama should replace him,  former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey said.

Kerrey, a Democrat and former governor of Nebraska, is a Medal of Honor recipient for his service in the Navy during the Vietnam War. He suffered a similar injury to Shinseki, a four-star Army general who lost part of a foot when he stepped on a land mine. Kerrey is a fellow amputee who lost the lower part of a leg during his service.

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Kerrey described Shinseki as a "wonderful public servant," but told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" he had "lost the confidence of the people, both who work there, as well as the Congress."

"It is time for the president to replace him," Kerrey said Monday. "When you lose the confidence of the people who are coming into that system . . . you've got to restore confidence, because that confidence is gone."

Shinseki appeared before a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on May 15 where he answered questions about allegations of problems for veterans seeking healthcare. While he testified that he was "mad as hell" about the issue, he has resisted calls to step down.

Upon returning from Vietnam, Kerrey said he received care from the VA "for eight or nine years." He said the care he received "saved my life."

The VA "gave me a chance to put my life back together. It was a great benefit to me," Kerrey said. He called for the president to replace Shinseki with "some Iraq or Afghan veteran who has a deep interest in this, who has the capacity to manage this agency."

"The reason I would look for somebody who was an Iraq or Afghan war veteran is you've got to come with the right sense of urgency. Unlike Vietnam, these guys have had multiple tours. They've got traumatic brain injury. They've got a much higher incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, much higher set of problems associated with those multiple tours. You've got to have the right sense of urgency," he said.

Part of the issue with Shinseki, Kerry said, is that he created an image that he had "all the answers."

"I think that's part of the problem that Secretary Shinseki has had. And he's created that image with people who are dependent upon this system, particularly with the Congress," Kerrey said.

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