Two more prominent Democratic candidates are calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation amid a scandal that has embroiled the VA.
Former Florida governor and current gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist and Georgia Democratic Senate nominee Michelle Nunn added their names to the growing list of southern Democrats joining Republicans’ call for Shinseki to step down, signaling mounting pressure on the secretary.
President Obama and other congressional Democrats have so far stood by Shinseki as the claims mount that veterans were made to wait for medical care and that VA employees engaged in a cover-up.
“There is growing evidence that the Department of Veterans Affairs needs new leadership in order to reform its badly broken bureaucracy,” Nunn said in a release on Friday morning, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution. ”I hope that General Shinseki will step aside to allow for fresh leadership to tackle these pressing issues and support the veterans that the General is deeply committed to serving.”
Crist called for Shinseki’s resignation on Thursday afternoon.
“I appreciate Secretary Eric Shinseki’s service to his country, and while we don’t know precisely what happened here, we do know that there must be accountability and confidence in leadership in order to get to the truth and provide veterans the medical care they’ve earned and deserve. That confidence is gone. I think it would be best if the Secretary stepped down and allowed others to get the VA fixed once and for all,” Crist said in a statement, according to Talking Points Memo.
Crist left the Republican Party to become an Independent in 2010, facing and eventually losing to Marco Rubio for an open U.S. Senate seat. The former Florida governor cited Republican extremism as the reason for his move. In 2012, Crist formally joined the Democratic Party and is now challenging Gov. Rick Scott to retake the office he once held.
“Moreover, if I were governor, rather than using this moment as a political tool, I would take immediate action to employ any and all resources needed to make sure that our veterans here in Florida get the care that they need and deserve,” Crist continued in the statement. “I’d start by calling the legislature back in a special session to expand coverage to the more than 41,000 Florida veterans who fall into the health care gap and are not currently insured due to Rick Scott and the legislature’s failure. This isn’t an issue of left versus right–it’s a crisis that requires leadership.”
On Thursday, Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes also called for Shinseki’s resignation. Two Democratic state representatives from Georgia also called for the secretary’s ouster earlier this week.
Shinseki has attempted to stay ahead of the scandal, promising a full investigation into the allegations that dozens of veterans died at a Phoenix, Ariz. VA facility while waiting for care. That investigation has expanded to include 26 VA facilities.
“I take any allegations about patient safety or employee misconduct very seriously. The reports of veterans’ negative experiences while seeking VA care are of great personal concern to me,” Shinseki wrote in a letter to veterans on Thursday. “As we approach our observance of Memorial Day and its special significance to our Nation, VA is re-doubling its efforts, with integrity and compassion, to earn your trust.”