The White House on Monday framed the resignation of the Department of Veterans Affairs' top health official as a measure of accountability for a backlog of disability claims and series of deaths at VA hospitals -- but called the demands for further action premature before the completion of an internal investigation.
White House press secretary Jay Carney faced a litany of questions from reporters about the ouster of Dr. Robert Petzel, the VA's under secretary of health, who had already been scheduled to retire this year.
President Obama's top spokesman both claimed credit for the personnel decision and insisted that broader conclusions could not be drawn until a review by the administration was completed.
“I would hope that you had noted that the top official in charge, he was ... requested to resign by the American Legion, and he did so the day that -- one day after his Senate testimony,” Carney said when one reporter questioned the magnitude of the Petzel resignation.
What Carney did not mention, however, is that the American Legion also called for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. The White House continues to express confidence in the top official at the VA.
And Carney hit back at critics who suggested Obama had not done enough to address the controversy.
“I think it is important to allow the investigations — investigation and review — to come to a completion, so we can see what the facts are and you can see the actions that Secretary Shinseki and others at the VA take in response to any revelations that are contained within those,” he said.
Obama has not publicly spoken about the VA controversy since conducting a press conference in Asia three weeks ago. Carney said Monday that the president would “soon” address the issue.