Shinseki, Hagel Make Quiet Visit to Congress as VA Scandal Intensifies

The trip to the Hill comes as several congressional Republicans call for the Veterans Affairs secretary’s resignation.

National Journal
Sarah Mimms
May 20, 2014, 10:37 a.m.

Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Sec­ret­ary Eric Shin­seki and De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel made a quiet trip to Cap­it­ol Hill on Tues­day af­ter­noon amid the grow­ing scan­dal en­gulf­ing vet­er­ans af­fairs hos­pit­als across the coun­try.

Shin­seki and Hagel were on the Hill for a meet­ing with House Ap­pro­pri­ations Chair­man Hal Ro­gers and Rank­ing Mem­ber Nita Lowey, ac­cord­ing to a com­mit­tee spokes­wo­man, that was sched­uled some time ago and was not re­lated to the VA scan­dal. The meet­ing, she said, was about the vet­er­ans af­fairs and de­fense de­part­ments’ on­go­ing col­lab­or­a­tion in­volving elec­tron­ic med­ic­al re­cords. Both de­part­ments have yet to cre­ate the di­git­al sys­tem pre­scribed by Con­gress in 2008, which con­tin­ues to cre­ate head­aches on the Hill.

Rep­res­ent­at­ives of the House Armed Ser­vices and House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs com­mit­tees that they were un­aware of Shin­seki’s vis­it. House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jeff Miller, who had said he wanted to look in­to scan­dal but has so far re­frained from call­ing for Shin­seki’s resig­na­tion, said it was the first he had heard of the vet­er­ans af­fairs sec­ret­ary’s trip to the Hill.

The vis­it comes as a hand­ful of con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans have called for Shin­seki’s im­me­di­ate resig­na­tion. The ma­jor­ity of mem­bers, in­clud­ing lead­er­ship, however, are with­hold­ing their judg­ment on the sec­ret­ary’s em­ploy­ment un­til more in­form­a­tion arises.

Shin­seki has said he is “mad as hell” about long wait times and secret ap­point­ment lists at vet­er­ans’ hos­pit­als. The Vet­er­ans Af­fairs De­part­ment’s in­spect­or gen­er­al is con­duct­ing an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to al­leg­a­tions of mis­man­age­ment at hos­pit­als.

CLA­RI­FIC­A­TION: An earli­er ver­sion of this story re­ferred to the sec­ret­ar­ies’ trip to the Hill as a “sur­prise vis­it.” While the vis­it was in fact a sur­prise to mem­bers of the House Armed Ser­vices and House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs com­mit­tees, it had been pre­vi­ously planned with lead­ers of the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee.

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