Politicians, veterans react to VA secretary's resignation
Former USO president takes the helm for now
Many politicians on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats alike, had been clamoring for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign or be fired.
"After weeks of muted reactions and tepid responses, I'm glad to see the president and Secretary Shinseki have heeded our calls for new leadership at the VA," said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in a statement.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said, "I think it was time for a change."
Cuellar said the VA now needs to change the culture within the agency.
"I think it's time to provide a sense of urgency to the services we need to provide the veterans," Cuellar said.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Cuellar said the VA cannot blame a lack of funding for their problems.
He said the mammoth agency has more funding than it's ever had.
Cornyn remained critical of how Shinseki oversaw the VA.
"As a decorated service member, Secretary Shinseki served his country well, but his time at the VA has been marked with gross inefficiencies and mismanagement," Cornyn said.
An audit by the VA cited a failure of leadership for its problems including lengthy waits for medical appointments and in some cases, efforts to cover up the delays.
To replace Shinseki for the time being, President Barack Obama named Sloan Gibson, who came to the VA less than six months ago as deputy director.
Gibson had served as the president of the USO for five years.
"Sloan Gibson worked tirelessly to support the changing needs of today's military," said United State Air Force Brig. Gen. (Ret.) John Pray, USO president, in a statement. "A passionate advocate for those who are serving and have served, we wish him continued success."
Several veterans at a barbecue fundraiser at VFW Post 76 said they were skeptical of the VA's future.
"The VA is so huge that one man cannot do it all by himself," said Vietnam veteran Charles Zambrano.
Johnny Ornelas, another Vietnam veteran said he's never had a problem with the VA but he agrees Shinseki needed to go.
"He was in charge. He should have known better. He should have been on top of things," Ornelas said.
Ignacio Castilleja, also a Vietnam veteran, said, "Heads needed to roll somewhere."
As for the interim director who is now in charge at the VA, Castilleja said, "He's not going to do anything. They tell you this and that, then promise you the world."
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