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Congress: More changes needed at VA

‘Business as usual can’t continue,’ Boehner says.

The resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki is a good step, but the problems at the VA are far larger than one man.

That seemed to be the consensus among members of Congress to Shinseki’s resignation.

“The system needs a wholesale cultural shift in how they treat our veterans,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Cincinnati, who served as a doctor in Abu Ghraib Prison Hospital in Iraq from 2005 to 2006.

Wenstrup, the lone Ohioan on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, called the resignation “only a first step towards accountability.”

The comments mirrored those of the rest of the state’s congressional delegation.

“The next VA Secretary must have the proper authority to fire all those responsible for this crisis, as well as address the outrageous backlog,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, who has served for 28 years in the Ohio Army National Guard, including a year-long stint in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and Djibouti.

Stivers said he is considering introducing a bill to allow veterans to receive health care at local hospitals, rather than wait at the VA for treatment.

House Speaker John Boehner, in an early afternoon appearance on Capitol Hill, said Shinseki’s resignation does not absolve the Obama administration from the errors that have plagued the department.

“Business as usual cannot continue,” said Boehner, R-West Chester Twp. “Until the President outlines a vision and an effective plan for addressing the broad dysfunction at the VA, today’s announcement really changes nothing.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the only Ohio senator to serve a full term on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, had kind words for Shinseki.

“Secretary Shinseki has dedicated his life to serving our nation as a soldier and as an advocate for our nation’s veterans,” he said. Brown too said Shinseki’s resignation won’t solve the problems at the VA, and “swift action” should be taken to address them.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he was hopeful that “new leadership and a fresh set of eyes” would help solve problems in the VA. He added that “simply replacing the Secretary—while necessary—is in no way sufficient to begin to eliminate the rot that has plagued veterans’ health care.”

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, expressed similar gratitude to Shinseki for his service but added that the problems at the VA are “entirely unacceptable.”

“This problem is bigger than one person and bigger than one agency,” he said.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, said Americans were right to be outraged at the treatment veterans were receiving.

“I hope that the appointment of a new Secretary will help the President focus his attention and the resources of his administration on fixing a systemic problem at the VA that has stood in the way of veterans receiving the quality care they need and deserve,” he said.

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