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Franken, Peterson, Walz: Shinseki should resign

WASHINGTON — The two separately called on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign after a critical VA inspector general report.

WASHINGTON — Citing an inspector general report about falsified wait times at a Veterans Affairs clinic in Phoenix, Democrats Sen. Al Franken and Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz separately called on Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign on Wednesday.

“The Inspector General’s report is so troubling that I have come to the conclusion that the Department of Veterans Affairs needs new leadership. I believe it would be in the best interest of veterans for Secretary Shinseki to step down,” Franken said in a statement. “The VA needs to be delivering quality care to our veterans on a timely basis. Clearly there is a systemic problem that this leadership has not been addressing.”

“I am now ready to call for the resignation of VA Secretary Shinseki,” Peterson said in a separate statement. “I have been waiting for information and guidance from members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and after talking to members of the committee and seeing the Inspector General’s report, I have come to the conclusion that there needs to be accountability and new leadership and the best step forward is for the Secretary to offer his resignation so we can start fixing the problems where they exist. We have to do better by our veterans.”

“Secretary Shinseki is one of the most honorable and loyal men I have ever met,” Walz said in his statement. “He’s dedicated his entire life to the betterment of our nation and caring for our brave men and women in uniform. It’s a shame that he and other veterans were let down by certain people working under him at the VA, but ultimately the buck stops with the Secretary. That is why today, I believe it would be best if Secretary Shinseki stepped down. We need to fix the systemic problems outlined in the IG report and restore veterans’ faith in the system.”

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The inspector general confirmed that officials at the VA clinic in Phoenix reported incorrect wait times to mask the fact 1,700 veterans were delayed in receiving care. The report indicated the problem could impact the VA system across the United States.

Many congressional Democrats, most of whom had been silent on Shinseki’s fate, moved quickly to condemn him after the report came out. Besides Franken, Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado, John Walsh of Montana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Kay Hagan of North Carolina all called on Shinseki to resign Wednesday. All five are on the ballot this November.

Just a week ago, Walz said it was too soon to say if Shinseki should lose his job. But that was before the inspector general report. All told, Politico reports the number of Democrats calling for Shinseki’s resignation doubled after the report came out, and that number continued to rise into Wednesday evening.

Minnesota Republican Reps. John Kline and Michele Bachmann and Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan had previously said Shinseki should resign.

(Updated at 9:45 with Walz comments.)

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.