For the first time since the Phoenix VA hospital scandal broke in his home state, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called Wednesday for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, McCain said: "I haven't said this before, but I think it's time for Gen. Shinseki to move on.” Shinseki, a retired general and former Army chief of staff, has said he had no plans to go.
McCain is not the first federal lawmaker to call for Shinseki’s resignation, but he is the most influential yet. A career naval aviator and Vietnam prisoner of war, he has focused on military and veterans issues and in the last 18 months has assisted more than 2,000 veterans with “matters involving federal agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
McCain's statement came after a preliminary report on the Phoenix VA hospital by the agency’s Office of Inspector General found multiple unofficial waiting lists and more than 1,000 patients who had yet to be seen by anyone at the facility. In addition, the VA said at least 23 veterans nationwide died while waiting to be treated.
Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado also called for Shinseki's resignation after the report came out Wednesday, the AP reported. The first Senate Democrat to do so, Udall is up for re-election this year. A few hours later, Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., who is also up this year, followed suit.
In a written statement, Shinseki said the report showed "reprehensible" problems, and not long after McCain’s statement, he ordered the VA facility to immediately “triage” the 1,700 veterans who had yet to be seen by a doctor or were still on a waiting list.
According to CNN, the report also found multiple instances of “daily of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment and bullying behavior by mid- and senior-level managers."
On Memorial Day, McCain spoke at the National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix. "We will always remember them, but also we have an obligation to the veterans that are living. And that obligation is not being fulfilled today.”