White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that President Obama remains confident in Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Eric Shinseki's ability to lead the agency after revelations that as many as 40 veterans allegedly died because of delayed treatment at the Phoenix hospital.
"The president remains confident in VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's ability to lead the department," Carney told reporters at Monday's daily press briefing. "He has aggressively addressed the challenge imposed by the backlog at the VA."
Carney said that backlog was under additional stress after the Obama administration made the “right” decision to allow veterans from Vietnam to submit agent orange-related claims and those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to submit claims related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The president's press secretary also said he had no “personnel announcements to make,” when asked if Obama would appoint a special team from the private sector to help the VA streamline its claims backlog and address other alarming complaints akin to the high-tech team the White House hired to address problems with healthcare.gov last fall.
He said that the VA inspector general is investigating the allegations about the Phoenix VA hospital, and Obama looks forward to reviewing its findings.
Last week the American Legion called for Shinseki to step down over this and other controversies bout veterans' care. Shinseki is scheduled to testify before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committees Thursday. A House committed last week voted to subpoena Shinseki for emails and documents tied to an alleged secret “waiting list” for sick veterans at the Phoenix hospital.
Shinseki, a retired Army general, told CBS that he acted immediately after learning of reports and the deaths in Phoenix by sending inspectors there.
“I take every one of these incidents and allegations seriously, and we're going to go and investigate,” he said.