President Barack Obama: I will talk to Eric Shinseki
By: Jonathan Topaz
May 30, 2014 08:23 AM EDT
President Barack Obama says he will have a “serious conversation” with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki about his “capacity” to adequately handle the problems in the department.
“I’ll have a serious conversation with him about whether he thinks he’s prepared and has the capacity to take on the job of fixing it, because I don’t want any veteran to not be getting the kind of services they deserve,” the president said during the excerpt of an interview with Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan that was taped on Thursday and aired on Friday.
Shinseki on Friday is expected to deliver to the president an internal audit on the situation at the VA.
Obama has come under increasing pressure to fire Shinseki over the VA scandal. An interim inspector general report released this week detailed “systemic” problems in the department, prompting a flurry of lawmakers on the left and right to call for the secretary’s resignation. The IG review came after reports that said at least 40 veterans died while waiting for health care in the Phoenix VA system.
Late Thursday night, House Veterans’ Affairs ranking Democrat Mike Michaud added his voice to those calling for Shinseki to resign, saying the secretary had become a distraction.
“It is with a heavy heart that I call on Secretary Shinseki to step down,” he said in the statement. “Democrats and Republicans alike, in tandem with our veteran service organizations and the millions of Americans who have served our nation, all want to get to the bottom of what exactly is broken with the VA system, and what we can do to fix it. Instead, one man has become the focal point. It’s time to move forward.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said this week that Obama is “extremely troubled” by the preliminary report. During a press briefing Thursday, the press secretary declined to say whether the president still had confidence in Shinseki after being asked repeatedly by ABC News’s Jonathan Karl.
The secretary is scheduled to speak Friday morning at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans annual conference in Washington.