The scandal at the Veterans Affairs Department continues to grow, with at least 26 facilities under investigation for allegedly cooking their books so that veterans were forced to wait weeks or months to receive medical treatment. Dozens reportedly died before they were able to see a doctor.
While members of Congress in both parties and chambers are clamoring for an immediate resolution to the issue, there's a pervasive reluctance on Capitol Hill to call for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski's resignation. Leaders in both parties have avoided making comments, though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed that a change in leadership "might be a good thing." And the vast majority of members, including far-right conservatives and Blue Dog Democrats, say it's too early to know just how deeply involved Shineski was in these issues and whether Congress ought to hold him responsible.
The Veterans Affairs scandal wasn't mentioned during Shinseki's most recent appearance on the Hill, a meeting with the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Nor was it discussed at House Republicans' weekly conference meeting.
Even conservative Rep. Steve King of Iowa, not usually known for withholding his opinion on a major issue, said it was "premature" to call for Shineski to step down.
A four-star general, Shinseki served in the Army for nearly 40 years, including two combat tours in Vietnam, in which he lost part of his foot to a land mine.
"I'm reluctant to make that call unless I have come to an informed conviction," King said Tuesday. "But what has happened here is a systemic tragedy that seems to be growing like a virus across this country and I don't think we've caught up with this whole [scandal] yet. If the president has someone whom he thinks could do — fix this VA system faster and more effectively, I hope that person emerges. At that point it'd be time to make a decision. I don't know what the alternative is right now."