White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today carefully avoided saying that President Obama continues to have confidence in Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, suggesting a decision on whether he wants Shinseki to stay on will await an internal VA audit due by the end of the week.
“He expects to receive a preliminary report very soon and will be very interested in the results,” Carney said.
A new report by the agency’s watchdog finding a “systemic” problem with VA clinics lying about patient wait times appears to have worsened Shinseki’s position. Carney said Obama was “extremely troubled” by the report, which has sparked growing calls, including among some Democrats, for Shinseki’s removal.
Carney repeated statements made last week by President Obama commending Shinseki’s commitment and his work in areas not related to patient waiting times. But he also stressed Obama’s desire to round up more facts about what has happened at the VA.
Last Tuesday, when asked if Obama was satisfied with the job Shinseki is doing, Carney replied: “Well, he is. He is satisfied. He has confidence in General Shinseki. But he has made it clear to, as I’ve said in the past, to the General and to others that he expects results as they try to tackle this very difficult issue of the backlog at the VA.”
But the following day Obama offered lukewarm support and but also suggested Shinseki may be held accountable
“As this stage, Rick is committed to solving the problem and working with us to do it,” Obama said. “But I’m also going to be waiting to see what the results of all this review process yields. I don’t yet know how systemic this is.”