WASHINGTON (AP) — Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized in public and then resigned in the privacy of the White House today, driven from office by a mushrooming scandal over the agency's health care system that serves millions of the nation's former warriors.
President Barack Obama said he accepted the resignation "with considerable regret," and appointed Slone Gibson, the agency's No. 2 official, as temporary secretary. Obama also said that the Justice Department would determine if any illegality had occurred, and that a top White House aide who has been detailed to the Veterans Affairs Department would remain there for the time being,
As for Shinseki, Obama said, "I regret that he has to resign under these circumstances."
He lavished praise on the Vietnam veteran and former Army chief of staff for his decades of service. He said the Cabinet officer had told him "he does not want to be a distraction" from the need to repair the agency, a task the president said pointedly could well require Congress to approve additional money.
A lifetime of service, in uniform and out, wasn't enough to save Shinseki's career, though, after agency investigators reported widespread problems in its sprawling hospital system and reported that 1,700 veterans seeking treatment at the Phoenix facility alone were consigned to limbo because they had never been added to official wait lists.