Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called on the embattled chief of the Veterans Administration, Eric Shinseki, to resign for his "extraordinary failure" amid a growing VA hospital scandal sparked by lethal delays in veterans' medical care and charges of an elaborate cover-up.
Appearing on Newsmax TV's "America's Forum," Gingrich on Thursday sided with two of the country's top veterans' advocate groups, American Legion and Concerned Veterans of America, both of which have taken the unusual step of urging a sitting VA secretary to quit.
"It is impossible to look at the range of scandals and believe that he [Shinseki] could possibly fix it," Gingrich told host J.D. Hayworth.
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The crisis around Shinseki deepened on Thursday morning when the House Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously to subpoena the retired four-star general and former Army Chief of Staff for documents related to the inquiry.
CNN reported on Thursday that Shinseki has instead accepted an invitation from the Senate to testify. He'll appear next week, May 15, before the upper chamber's Committee on Veterans' Affairs, chaired by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders.
Gingrich contended that Shinseki failed to inform Congress about the trouble unfolding on his watch.
"Gen. Shinseki had a long career — an honorable career — in the Army but he doesn't seem to understand the difference between serving in the Army and being a cabinet officer," said Gingrich. "Cabinet officers have a genuine, immediate obligation to report to the Congress."
The VA is reeling from a CNN report that 40 veterans died waiting for appointments at its Phoenix medical center. One whistleblower, a recently retired VA doctor, told CNN the hospital listed those patients and others on a sham appointments calendar created to hide the extent of the facility's backlog.
The real roster showed some 1,600 veterans having waited months to see a physician, according to CNN
Shinseki has resisted calls to resign and vowed to get to the bottom of the VA's problems himself. "I serve at the pleasure of the president," he told The Wall Street Journal
Gingrich suggested it's too late to take Shinseki's promise seriously: "This is a job he could not do, he did not do, and the evidence is overwhelming."
He said the VA's problems run much deeper and wider than a scandal at one Arizona hospital. The VA, he said, is a massive bureaucracy
mired in a dangerously outdated model of service.
"If you want to make an airline reservation, if you want to make a hotel reservation, you don't have to wait 173 days," said Gingrich, "and yet the Veterans Administration, which is a paper-based, old-fashioned bureaucracy, is just hopelessly slow and hopelessly inefficient.
"I'm hoping we won't just go back to the same old scapegoating, let's fire 12 people, have a lot of noise, and think we solved it. I hope that it will look very deeply and seriously at fundamentally replacing the obsolete paper-based model of bureaucracy with a new information-age system."
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