Michelle Nunn, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, this morning split with the Obama administration and called for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in response to a growing scandal over delayed treatment and faked records.
"There is growing evidence that the Department of Veterans Affairs needs new leadership in order to reform its badly broken bureaucracy," Nunn said in a campaign release.
Nunn’s call comes one day after Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic candidate in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race, also demanded Shinseki’s head.
Nunn isn’t the first Democrat in Georgia, a state with multiple military bases, to demand Shinseki’s departure. U.S. Reps. David Scott of Atlanta and John Barrow of Augusta did so earlier this week.
Democrat Rick Weiland, who is running for South Dakota's open Senate seat, also called for Shinseki's ouster, as did a Democrat running for an open House seat in New Jersey and two Republicans challenging vulnerable Democrats in northern Minnesota House districts.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., added to the calls for Shinseki's resignation, saying the VA crisis was "a national embarrassment" that requires new leadership.
Shinseki, 71, said Thursday that he intends to remain on the job. "I serve at the pleasure of the president," he told reporters at the Capitol. The former Army general and chief of staff added that "this is not the first time" he has faced controversy in his career.
Here’s the whole of Nunn statement:
"There is growing evidence that the Department of Veterans Affairs needs new leadership in order to reform its badly broken bureaucracy. Despite efforts over the years to improve services, the agency still lacks modern practices, world class processes and modern information systems. And the diverse challenges our veterans face call upon the VA to have the most sophisticated tools and most streamlined processes.
“Our World War II and Korean War veterans are dealing with issues associated with an aging population, as well as the wounds of war. Those who served in Vietnam are now showing the effects of Agent Orange and other conditions that have taken decades to develop. And our younger veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are dealing with physical and emotional issues that provide unique challenges and require specialized treatment.
“General Shinseki is a veteran himself, and one we should honor and respect. He has nobly served our nation during war and as an active duty military leader. But for all his achievements as a military leader, he has not been able to reform the VA to meet the needs of our veteran population over the last 6 years.
“It has become increasingly clear that we need new leadership to build confidence, focus and accountability at the VA to fix what is wrong with the agency. I hope that General Shinseki will step aside to allow for fresh leadership to tackle these pressing issues and support the veterans that the General is deeply committed to serving.
“As we anticipate Memorial Day, we must remember that we are responsible to the men and women who have served our nation and we must be vigilant in ensuring we live up to our commitments to these brave veterans.”