In recent weeks, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been the target of much criticism, surrounding allegations that the VA is responsible for delays in treatment at some of its hospitals that have resulted in the deaths of over 40 US veterans.
In attempt to mitigate the impact of the controversy, the VA released a statement this past Thursday disclosing that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has ordered a "face-to-face audit" at all Department of Veterans Affairs Clinics.
This move was likely made in response to the House Veterans Affairs Committee voting to subpoena Shinseki for emails that refer, reflect or relate to the destruction of a "secret list" of veterans waiting for care at Phoenix VA hospital. The subpoena was issued in verbal vote just hours before the VA's audit statement was released.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) also undoubtedly played a role in the audit decision, through her advocacy of a nationwide audit addressing the matter. Kirkpatrick wrote to Shinseki in the wake of the political storm, urging a nationwide audit of the scheduling system currently used at VA medical facilities. Kirkpatrick reportedly circulated the letter to her White House colleagues.
Many have gone so far as to call for Shinseki's resignation – most notably the American Legion, the nation's largest veterans organization, as well as veterans group Concerned Veterans for America.
The national commander of the American Legion, Daniel Dellinger, for example, deemed the group's call for Shinseki's dismissal a very serious movement. "It's not something we do lightly. But we do so today because it is our responsibility as advocates for the men and women who have worn this nation's uniform," Dellinger commented.
Pete Hegseth, CEO of the Concerned Veterans of America, further offered the statement: "We're proud to stand with The American Legion as they take this courageous and historic stand. As America's largest veteran's organization, their moral authority on this issue is unimpeachable. We applaud their demands for accountability at the very top of the Department of Veterans Affairs."
Shinseki, however, has yet to exhibit any resignation-related intentions. "I serve at the pleasure of the president," Shinseki explained. "I signed on to make some changes. I have work to do."
What does such work entail? Shinseki has been somewhat vague, yet seemingly calculated in his remedial approach.
"Allegations like this get my attention," Shinseki said. "I take it seriously, and my habit is to get to the bottom of it. "If allegations are substantiated, we'll take swift and appropriate action."
Further, Shinseki has already placed the director of the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system on administrative leave in response to the allegations.
"We believe it is important to allow an independent, objective review to proceed," Shinseki announced. "These allegations, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and if the Inspector General's investigation substantiates these claims, swift and appropriate action will be taken."
The White House has expressed nothing but faith in Shinseki and his plan thus far. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters last week that President Obama himself has "complete confidence" in Shinseki.
House Speaker John Boehner echoed this sentiment, also commenting on Thursday that he is "not ready to join the chorus of people calling for [Shinseki] to step down," labeling "the problems at the VA ... systemic."
Shinseki will testify before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs this week, on May 15.