VA Top Health Official Resigns Following Uproar Over Veteran Deaths

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U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki (left) and Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel testify before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee about wait times veterans face to get medical care on May 15.
National Journal
Billy House
May 16, 2014, 1:26 p.m.

The top De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs of­fi­cial in charge of health has resigned in the wake of re­ports of secret wait­ing lists and delayed care in Phoenix and oth­er VA hos­pit­als.

Word of the resig­na­tion of Dr. Robert Pet­zel, the de­part­ment’s un­der sec­ret­ary for health, came in an an­nounce­ment Fri­day from Sec­ret­ary Eric Shin­seki.

“Today, I ac­cep­ted the resig­na­tion of Dr. Robert Pet­zel, Un­der Sec­ret­ary for Health in the De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs,” he said.

“As we know from the Vet­er­an com­munity, most Vet­er­ans are sat­is­fied with the qual­ity of their VA health care, but we must do more to im­prove timely ac­cess to that care,” said Shin­seki. He ad­ded, “I am com­mit­ted to strength­en­ing Vet­er­ans’ trust and con­fid­ence in their VA health­care sys­tem.

The move comes as the House next week is plan­ning floor ac­tion on its Vet­er­ans Man­age­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Act. The le­gis­la­tion would make it easi­er to fire or de­mote seni­or lead­ers deemed as fail­ing to meet re­spons­ib­il­it­ies.

With Pet­zel’s de­par­ture, it is un­clear how many of the jobs of oth­er de­part­ment of­fi­cials could ul­ti­mately be tar­geted be­cause of the bur­geon­ing scan­dal.

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