Oregon Senator calls for VA head to resign

Jeff Merkley
FILE - Jeff Merkley speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley joined a growing number of Democrats Thursday calling for the resignation of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Shinseki has faced considerable criticism from both sides of the aisle since a scathing report on the VA’s “systemic” problems was released Wednesday.

Merkley, D-Myrtle Creek, released the following statement Thursday afternoon:

“The reports of long wait times and cover ups at the VA are 100% unacceptable and there needs to be accountability. After yesterday’s investigator general report, it is clear there are systemic problems at the VA and we need new leadership.  Secretary Shinseki should step down to clear the path for leadership that can offer a fresh start.  We need to focus on solutions so veterans have confidence that they are getting the care they deserve.”

The report, coming a week after President Barack Obama addressed the nation on the 26 VA facilities under federal investigation, stated veterans at Phoenix’s VA center waited an average of 115 days before ever seeing a doctor.

Secretary Shinseki should step down to clear the path for leadership that can offer a fresh start.

Portland’s VA hospital has not gone unblemished, either. Navy veteran Craig Fisher, of Salem, told KOIN 6 News earlier this month that he had been waiting more than a year to undergo stomach hernia surgery.

A spokesperson for the Portland VA Medical Center said at the time they have only found minor issues that they say they are now working to fix.

Merkley’s Republican challenger Monica Wehby released a statement Thursday calling out the sitting Senator for what she called a politically motivated move. Wehby, as many within the GOP were quick to do, demanded Shinseki step down as news of the VA scandal emerged.

“Only when it became politically expedient did Merkley call for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation,” she said in the statement. “That’s not leadership and it’s what is wrong with Washington, D.C.”

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