Texas Sen. Cornyn Agrees: VA Secretary Eric Shinseki Must Go

Tuesday, 06 May 2014 06:15 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn joined a growing chorus of calls for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, decrying the "fatal mismanagement" at VA facilities — including alleged secret waiting lists and doctored records — which illustrates the agency's "inability to uphold its commitment to veterans."

Cornyn called for the White House to look into the allegations, and for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to hold emergency committee meetings as soon as possible, The Hill reported.

The demand echoed the call from the American Legion on Monday — as well as that of the Concerned Veterans for America and several House members, The Hill reported.

Cornyn was the second senator to demand Shinseki's resignation, after Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran.

"The president needs to find a new leader to lead this organization out of the wilderness, and back to providing the service our veterans deserve," Cornyn said, taking a swipe at the Obama administration's focus on climate change.

"I wish the White House, instead of traveling around the country, talking about the urgency of climate change, would talk with equal urgency about this failure of leadership and incompetence at the VA," he said.

In a scathing opinion piece for the Waco Tribune-Herald on Tuesday, Cornyn charged America veterans are dying "not at the hands of a foreign enemy but through the neglect of the very country they served."

"Our men and women in uniform serve our country honorably," he wrote. "They do so based on a promise that when they come home, their country will be there to lend them a helping hand. They're upholding their end of the bargain; America needs to uphold hers."

Cornyn used the case of cancer-stricken Navy veteran Thomas Breen to illustrate his point, saying two weeks before his Nov. 30, 2013, death, his family had tried to get him an appointment at the Phoenix VA Medical Center.

"It had been more than a month since he was rushed to the emergency room with serious symptoms of cancer," he wrote, noting the VA hospital called with his appointment time two weeks after his death — and that at least 40 vets have reportedly died while waiting for appointments from the same facility.

"As if that weren't bad enough, high-level officials in the Phoenix VA system knew this was going on and did nothing about it. Actually, it gets worse: Not only did the Phoenix officials tolerate this scheme — they outright defended it."

In Pittsburgh, he wrote, six patients at a VA hospital died and more than 20 others at the same hospital became sick after an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease due to contaminated water.

"This all unfolds against the backdrop of alarmingly high numbers of veteran suicides and a massive backlog of disability compensation claims at the VA," he said, reporting that as of April 26, there were more than 596,000 claims pending nationwide.

"To be clear, this isn't an excuse for the fatal mismanagement that occurred in Phoenix and Pittsburgh," he wrote. "Rather, it's an extended symptom of the VA's inability to uphold its commitment to veterans."

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