Below are Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Mark Begich and GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s statements on the resignation of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary General Eric Shinseki. I’m including Sullivan’s response because he has made it in an issue in the Senate race. Read background here and here.
From Sen. Lisa Murkowski:
No one can question General Eric Shinseki’s service to our nation or his patriotism. However, it is fair to ask how entrenched the system-wide bureaucratic problems are that General Shinseki inherited and how best to push to the VA into a more transparent and effective era.
From our state’s vantage point, Secretary Shinseki took a keen interest in reforming the Alaska VA healthcare system – advancing many positive improvements. He answered my call to ensure that Alaska veterans would receive treatment in Alaska instead of flying to Seattle for care available here. He entered into groundbreaking agreements with the Alaska Native health system to treat rural veterans, bringing an effort I began in 2006 to a successful conclusion. And he supported expansion of the Tribal Veteran Representative program.
Because of his deeply held belief in accountability, General Shinseki submitted his resignation to the President today. But this structural problem is far larger than one man, and if true reform is to be enacted and felt within the VA, Shinseki should be the first of many, many more to depart the agency.
Our veterans deserve better. Americans demand more.
From Sen. Mark Begich:
There are few more important responsibilities of the federal government than caring for our nation’s veterans. General Eric Shinseki ably served his nation in war and continued to serve his nation’s veterans as Veterans Affairs secretary. He has demonstrated a lifelong dedication to our country, his troops and to our veterans.
Secretary Shinseki’s resignation won’t fix the problem various reports have found of poor treatment and care of our veterans. The VA needs strong leaders now more than ever before. That’s why I will push to swiftly find a new leader so we can get back to doing the important business of providing veterans the quality care they need and deserve.
Fortunately, my staff and I have a strong and productive relationship with the VA here in Alaska. We have regular meetings to discuss gaps in services and to work on solutions. As a result of our good relationship with local providers here in Alaska, we got ahead of the issues now coming to light in other states. For example, when wait lists for care began to grow we partnered with VA to put innovative programs in place to ease the backlog. As a result, over the past year the number of veterans on the waiting list for primary care in Anchorage was reduced from more than 900 to under 20 and wait times to see a primary care provider were reduced from 90 days to just seven days.
As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee I will be aggressively monitoring the outcomes of the internal reports and demanded answers so that the VA in the Lower 48 can achieve the progress we have seen here in Alaska.
Senate candidate Dan Sullivan:
As I have said before, I thank Secretary Shinseki for his decades of dedicated service in the U.S. Army, but the failures at the VA are disgraceful and a change in leadership was drastically needed,” said Dan Sullivan. “The White House and Congress must act swiftly to install new leadership at the Veterans Administration, and ensure that the next Secretary is properly vetted and capable of addressing the problems the Inspector General has called ‘systemic.’
Despite the numerous calls from both Democrats and Republicans for Secretary Shinseki to step down, Senator Begich has remained on the sidelines, failing to truly acknowledge the problem, instead standing side-by-side with President Obama until the bitter end. While Secretary Shinseki’s resignation and replacement is a necessary first step, more must be done to properly honor our commitment to our nation’s military men and women. The White House and the Veterans Affairs Committee must act now to better serve Alaska’s 77,000 veterans and their families, by moving the VA Management Accountability Act out of committee for a vote. I have emphasized the critically important issue of how our country cares for its veterans since day one of my campaign, and I will continue to give it the attention it deserves as a U.S. Senator.
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