House Speaker John Boehner is "not confident" in the inspector general's ability to properly investigate the scandal at the Veterans Affairs Department, and he says he is "getting a little closer" to calling on department chief Eric Shinseki to step down.
"The reports that continue to come [of failures at the VA] are appalling," Boehner said Thursday. "And these are men and women who served our country, and we've not just let them down, we've let them die."
But, he added, Shinseki, who is a four-star general, is just the symbol of a much larger problem. Boehner said that Americans should not get distracted by the concerns about the head of the agency, but instead focus on the larger problem: The VA has had serious problems for decades.
"This isn't about the secretary. It's about the entire system underneath him," the speaker said. "And you know, the general can leave, and we can wait around for months to go through a nomination process, and we get a new person."
Boehner said he supports the House Veterans Affairs' Committee's efforts to conduct its own investigation into the matter, arguing that the Veterans Affairs Department's inspector general has not "shown the interest or capacity to get to the bottom of what is a systemic failure of an entire agency." The investigation, launched at the urging of Congress when the scandal broke earlier this month, now affects at least 26 VA facilities across the country.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who chairs that committee, has complained that the department has been slow to respond to a congressional subpoena for documents related to the scandal, accusing it of "stonewalling" lawmakers.
Boehner said Thursday that Miller is working to subpoena "top managers" at the Veterans Affairs Department to testify before the committee next week.