May 30 - Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki stepped down from his position after apologizing to veterans for abuses that hid the lengthy wait times for patients to see doctors, saying the problem was worse than he thought. Vanessa Johnston reports.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki began the day with an apology to veterans over delays in medical care. (SOUNDBITE) (English) VETERAN AFFAIRS SECRETARY ERIC SHINSEKI, SAYING, "I've initiated the process for the removal of the senior leaders of the Phoenix VA Medical Center. We will use all authority at our disposal to enforce accountability among senior leaders who have found to have instigated, tolerated dishonorable or irresponsible scheduling practices at VA health care facilities." The apologies for many were too little, too late. An investigation into the cover-up of those delays -- initially reported at a VA facility in Phoenix -- found the practice to be nationwide. By mid-morning the former General was handing in his own resignation. President Obama confirmed the news at a White House news conference. SOUNDBITE (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "A few minutes ago, Secretary Shinseki offered me he his own resignation. With considerable regret, I accepted." Inspector general probes are now underway at 42 VA locations. In Phoenix, it identified 1,700 veterans who were waiting for a primary care appointment but were not on the agency's electronic waiting list. The president also took the opportunity to praise Shinseki on his distinguished military career and on his work to reduce homeless among veterans. SOUNDBITE (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "I am grateful for his service as are many veterans across the country. He has worked hard to investigate and identify the problems with access to care. But, as he told me this morning, the VA needs new leadership to address them." The White House has come under fire from Republicans for its handling of the scandal. This was Speaker of the House John Boehner on Friday. SOUNDBITE (English) U.S. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, JOHN BOEHNER, SAYING: "His resignation though does not absolve the president of his responsibility to step in and make things right for our veterans. Business as usual cannot continue." The White House announced that Sloan Gibson, the current deputy secretary of the VA, will take over for Shinseki until a replacement is found.