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Hagel stands by Shinseki despite VA problems

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he does not think VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign.
By Gabrielle Levy Follow @gabbilevy Contact the Author   |   May 23, 2014 at 3:38 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 23 (UPI) -- Add Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to the list of high-level officials standing by embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Hagel said that while "someone has to be accountable" for the allegations of mismanagement of patient wait times at VA health clinics, firing Shinseki would do little to "fix the problem."

But he said there should be "zero tolerance" once the inspector general at the VA finishes its investigation.

"Why did this happen? How was it allowed to happen? Who's accountable? Someone has to be accountable here, like in any institution," Hagel told Charlie Rose.

He joins President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in standing against a tide of officials calling for Shinseki's ouster.

Shinseki spoke directly to veterans Thursday, reiterating his commitment to "re-doubling its efforts, with integrity and compassion, to earn your trust."

"I take any allegations about patient safety or employee misconduct very seriously," he said. "The reports of Veterans' negative experiences while seeking VA care are of great personal concern to me."

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