Blumenthal: VA resignation just the ‘beginning’

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP/WTNH) — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal Friday called the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki “the beginning, not the end.”

“I continue to have concerns about Connecticut’s facilities and whether these improprieties and possible wrongdoing were happening here,” Connecticut’s senior senator said.

Shinseki resigned Friday in a personal meeting with President Barack Obama, shortly after publicly apologizing for deep problems plaguing the agency’s health care system that Obama called “totally unacceptable.”

Obama said he accepted the retired four-star general’s resignation “with considerable regret” during an Oval Office meeting.

RELATED on WTNH: Obama says any misconduct at VA will be punished

Shinseki had been facing mounting calls to step down from lawmakers in both parties since a scathing internal report out Wednesday found broad and deep-seated problems in the sprawling health care system, which provides medical care to about 6.5 million veterans annually.

Click play on the video above to hear more from Blumenthal, as well as from a Connecticut veteran who talks about medical treatment flatly denied at the West Haven VA hospital.

And here’s what some other politicians are saying:

Sen. Chris Murphy

“General Shinseki has rendered incredible service to our country spanning decades both on the battlefield and off. We owe him a debt of gratitude for that service. There are big problems at the VA, and I made it clear to both the Secretary and the Department that I expect them to follow through on plans to continue to reduce wait times and address reports of fraud in local VA facilities.

“Secretary Shinseki’s resignation alone will not solve these problems—our focus must be on fixing them to better serve our veterans. I am encouraged by the recent audit of Connecticut’s VA that showed that our state uses best practices and generally has wait times for care that are within acceptable standards. Connecticut’s VA can always be better, but compared to VAs in other parts of the country, ours is on the right track.”

Rep. Joe Courtney, 2nd District

“General Shinseki’s departure will provide the opportunity to inject a new team to address the IG findings while the audit process continues, implement their recommendations, and change the culture that allowed this outrageous problem to develop in the first place. It is important to recognize the general’s heroic service to our nation during the Vietnam war, and his service as Army Chief of Staff when he warned America that the cost of the Iraq war would far exceed the predictions of the Bush administration.

“General Shinseki made important strides as VA Secretary, including recognizing Agent Orange illnesses that had been dismissed for decades, implementing the Post-9/11 GI Bill which has provided higher education benefits to more than one million veterans and family members, as well as making serious inroads to alleviating homelessness among veterans with his support for programs like the Griswold American Legion housing project, the Vernon Chrysalis center and the Rocky Hill supportive housing facility.

“In the coming weeks, I will continue to work with my Veterans Advisory Council and staff to ensure that our veterans continue to have timely access to medical appointments at Connecticut VA facilities—a benefit that they have earned through their service to our country—and I will continue to support efforts to hold all responsible VA personnel accountable for this tragic mismanagement.”

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