WASHINGTON - The chorus calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation is getting louder.
The latest call comes from 8th District U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who's the first Democrat in Minnesota's congressional delegation and one of just a handful of House Democrats to call for Shinseki's departure.
Nolan said Shinseki, who's served as VA Secretary since 2009 and was a former four star Army general before that, has had plenty of time to address the agency's chronic problems.
"I know he's a good soldier and deserves to be commended for that, but I think if he wants to be a real good soldier, he'll resign now and let the president get someone in there who's a stronger, tougher manager," said Nolan in an interview.
Shinseki and the agency are under fire because of reports that some employees at the VA facility in Phoenix, AZ maintained a secret wait list for veterans trying to establish their eligibility for disability benefits.
Earlier this week, 1st District Rep. Tim Walz, the only Minnesotan to sit on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, released waiting time data from the Minnesota VA facilities and said there's no evidence of wrongdoing by VA officials in the state.
The issue has quickly become a political rallying cry for Republicans. Nolan's Republican opponent, Stewart Mills, pushed for Shinseki's resignation earlier in the week, as has Republican Torrey Westrom, who's running in the 7th District against DFL Rep. Collin Peterson and Mike McFadden, a Republican who's challenging Sen. Al Franken.
While management problems seem to be at the heart of the VA's current problems, Walz and Nolan noted that the VA has had a flood of applicants from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, in addition to newly-eligible Vietnam-era vets who were exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange. Nolan also accused the GOP of exacerbating the agency's problems by limiting its funding.
"We were the ones who introduced amendments to the last defense appropriations bill to double the funding so we could double the personnel to deal with this backlog," said Nolan. "It was the Republicans who voted against it."
The US House will hold more hearings on the VA next week.
Your support matters.
You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.