DENVER — Colorado Sen. Mark Udall became the first Democratic senator in Washington Wednesday to call for embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
Udall, who faces a tough reelection battle this fall, made his decision public via Twitter after the release of a preliminary Inspector General report, which found the pattern of covering up delays in patient care are “systemic throughout” the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
The medical care of some 1,700 veterans may have been affected by the way waiting times were manipulated, according to the report, which urges Shinseki to “take immediate action” to provide these veterans with timely health care.
Investigators are now looking into 42 medical facilities in connection with health care delays, far more than initially thought to be under the microscope.
“The Inspector General’s preliminary report makes it clear that the systemic problems at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are so entrenched that they require new leadership to be fixed. Secretary Shinseki must step down,” Udall said in a statement.
“We need new leadership who will demand accountability to fix these problems and ensure the VA is providing Coloradans the services they’ve earned.”
Udall, who just appeared Tuesday night with Vice President Joe Biden at a Denver fundraiser, is now openly challenging the White House, which has defended Shinseki thus far.
He is also adding to the pressure felt by other vulnerable Democrats in Washington to follow suit.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV quickly followed Udall’s tweet with his own call for Shinseki’s resignation, as did Sen. John Walsh, D-MT.
Earlier Wednesday, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the most decorated veteran in Congress, told CNN that he now thinks “it’s time for [Shinseki] to go.”
Udall’s opponent, Congressman Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, issued his own statement noting that he’s been calling for Shinseki’s resignation since May 8.
“I am pleased that Sen. Udall has finally decided to stand up with me on behalf of our nation’s veterans and call for a change in leadership at the VA,” Gardner said in a statement from his campaign.
“Recent revelations about improper conduct within the department demand immediate action. Now that Sen. Udall has joined my call, I am hopeful the president relieves Secretary Shinseki of his post and begins the difficult work of fixing the department’s significant problems.”