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Sanders reacts to Shinseki's resignation - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sanders reacts to Shinseki's resignation

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Eric Shinseki Eric Shinseki
Sen. Bernie Sanders Sen. Bernie Sanders
BURLINGTON, Vt. - A small, simple ceremony at Burlington's Battery Park drew dozens paying their respects. Also there-- Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee honoring veterans' service and sacrifice at the same time that President Obama announced what many had called for in Washington.

"A few minutes ago, Secretary Shinseki offered me his own resignation," the president said.

As the Senate VA chair, Sanders has spent weeks tracking the scandal as new evidence mounted revealing terrible wait lists for veterans care at some VA facilities, and some VA administrators trying to hide the mess. But the senator never joined the growing list of politicians calling for VA Secretary Shinseki to step down. Instead, he defended Shinseki's military service while pushing for reforms and more funding for the VA.

"I'm saddened; Eric Shinseki is an American hero," said Sanders, I-Vermont. "The president has made his decision and I hope we will very, very quickly-- we've got legislation to do this-- address the problems we have seen in Phoenix and elsewhere. There should not be-- what happened there is reprehensible. And we have got to make sure that veterans not only get quality health care, they get it in a timely manner."

The senator says with 300,000 employees, 151 facilities and 900 community outreach clinics, the VA is enormous and the learning curve will be steep for the VA's next leader. He hopes that will not slow moves to cut wait lists and expand access to care.

"If you talk to most veterans in the state of Vermont and I expect veterans throughout the country, what they will tell you and this is an important point, when they walk into the VA, they are getting high-quality health care experience from high-quality practitioners," Sanders said.

Vietnam vet Robert Brennan says the new Burlington VA clinic has been a big help.

"I think it's easier to get in there now. They got it so when you walk in, you're taken care of," Brennan said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, issued a statement about Shinseki's resignation, saying, "(Shinseki) oversaw some notable achievements during his tenure that are benefiting veterans. But the fact that he was unable to lead the VA to a place where it can routinely provide the quality, timely care our veterans earned should be deeply troubling to all of us.
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