U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) issued the following statement today calling for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down as head of the VA after a preliminary report released by the agency's office of inspector general found that least 1,700 veterans waiting for health care services at the Phoenix VA medical facility were not included on the facility's wait list, and patients there waited an average of 115 days for their first appointments. The interim report also found that inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic at VA medical facilities nationwide, including manipulation of wait times to see a doctor.
"I have a mountain of respect for what General Shinseki has done in service to our country, but our nation's veterans deserve nothing less than the very best service our nation has to offer. Tragically, that has not always been the case. The fact that veterans in Phoenix were left off waiting lists and that veterans waited an average of 115 days for their first appointments is absolutely unacceptable. Furthermore, the confirmation of problems being systemic and not limited to Phoenix, is even more disturbing.
"Over the years I've met and known many people, particularly in the New Mexico VA system; doctors, nurses, physical therapists and others, who work tirelessly and effectively on behalf of the men and women who have served this country. This week I visited the regional VA facility in Albuquerque and many of the veterans that I spoke to there were complementary of their treatment. But even one veteran slipping through the cracks anywhere in the nation is one too many.
"I call on President Obama to appoint a new Secretary who will provide the leadership and management that our nation's veterans need and deserve. I will continue working in the U.S. Senate to provide the VA with the resources it needs to fulfill the promises we made to every veteran who volunteered to serve our country."