WASHINGTON — Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, reacting to the news that Eric Shinseki had resigned as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said, “He did the right thing, and he’s putting his country first.”
Nelson, a Democrat, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and has known the general for a number of years.
“This is a strong, patriotic general who stood up to Donald Rumsfeld about the length of time that we were going to have to be in Iraq. Now that he resigned, we can get on. There ought to be a lot of heads rolling, because there is something in the culture of the VA that is not responding to serve our veterans the very best that they deserve.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, had called for Shinseki to go earlier in the week. In a statement Thursday, Rubio said a recent VA inspector general report on problems in the VA health system “confirmed our worst fears about rampant mismanagement and institutional neglect at the VA.”
On Friday, after the resignation, Rubio added in a statement:
“Secretary Shinseki’s resignation is just the first step in addressing the institutional neglect of veterans at the VA, but that alone won’t solve the problem. The systemic mismanagement will continue unless we bring reform to the VA and hold all those who are responsible accountable. Under current law, whoever succeeds Secretary Shinseki will be prohibited from firing VA employees such as those detailed in the inspector general’s latest report, who have failed at their jobs and therefore failed our nation’s veterans.”
Rubio is pushing legislation that seeks to remedy those issues.
U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami, said Shinseki had “served this nation honorably” but that visits with veterans “made clear that there are systemic issues that need to be addressed.”
“While the problems facing the VA were not necessarily created by Secretary Shinseki, new leadership is in order to right this ship,” Garcia said. “We can now move forward with a fresh start to thoroughly examine and address the clearly widespread issues facing the VA and ensure they never happen again so that our nation’s veterans can get the care they have so rightly earned.”