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Lawmakers in the region say calls for the head of the Veterans Affairs department to step down are premature, but they say Congress needs to keep pressure on the beleaguered agency.
With such a large military presence in D.C. and Virginia, lawmakers in the region are keeping a close watch on developments at the VA. Two veterans groups are calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down amid reports that delays in care at VA facilities have caused the deaths of more than 20 veterans.
Virginia Republican Congressman Rob Wittman is on the Armed Services Committee. He says the buck stops with leaders in the VA.
“It has to start at the top from there on down, so I want General Shinseki to be held accountable," Wittman says.
Unlike a growing number of Republicans, Wittman says he hasn't lost faith in Shinseki. He says he would rather press him for answers and a timetable than push him out.
“And making sure we have attainable and reasonable efforts to make sure that this is being taken care of we're taking care of and that includes milestones," Wittman says.
Virginia Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly says Shinseki has made progress on his goal of eliminating the backlog by next year.
“There are problems with the delivery of health care in the VA health care system, but if there’s anybody who has tried to roll up his sleeves and tried to tackle those problems its General Shinseki," Connolly says. "He’s reduced the backlog by 44 percent and I can tell you in terms of constituent work I've noticed that.”
Still hundreds of thousands of veterans remain untreated and lawmakers in both parties are losing patience, with many saying they’re waiting for an inspector general’s report on the VA before casting judgment.