The chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said Secretary Eric Shinseki, who stepped down today, was “betrayed by people, as he indicated, who were not honest to him.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who was not among the lawmakers calling for Shinseki to resign, said he was “saddened” by the departure of “a true American hero.”
“And that’s not just the purple hearts that he won in battle or his role as Army chief of staff. This is a guy back in 2003 that did something unprecedented in modern history. He told Don Rumsfeld, secretary of Defense at that time, in his rush to war, that occupying Iraq was not be all that easy. You would need more troops. So, this is a guy that has an enormous amounts of guts. He’s a well-respected military leader,” Sanders said.
He added that Shinseki didn’t get due credit for guiding the VA from a system of processing claims by paper to processing them electronically.
“Clearly, right now, short term, we’ve got to make sure that every veteran on a waiting list gets healthcare as quickly as possible,” the chairman said.
Sanders said he would have preferred something other than President Obama accepting Shinseki’s resignation.
“I think this guy is a very gutsy guy who, I think, wanted the opportunity to clean house and make the changes that he now understood was necessary. But I can understand — you know, one of the things that’s going on, and I hope we can end this, there is a lot of politicization going on right now,” he said.
“The Koch Brothers and Republicans are running ads all over this country on this issue. I think that that’s unfortunate. I would hope that everybody can focus on how do we make sure that every veteran in this country gets the quality healthcare that he or she needs and does it in a timely manner.”
Sanders even suggested that the congressional Democrats who called for Shinseki to step down, not just the moderates in the upper chamber but senators such as Al Franken (D-Minn.), were influenced by the Koch Bros.
At the time of Shinseki’s resignation this morning, 10 Democratic senators and 27 House members were on the record calling for the VA secretary to go.
“You know, some of them are responding to ads that are on television. And some of them feel that way and I understand that. I just don’t agree,” Sanders said.
“But be that as it may, my job now, as chairman of the committee, is to work with the committee and the Senate to make sure that we introduce legislation, that we work with the new V.A. leadership to provide the best quality healthcare to all our veterans in a timely manner.”