WASHINGTON, May 12, 2014 - Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki is "one of the most decent human beings who ever wore the uniform or who led the nation's Army," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said over the weekend.
Speaking with reporters in Durham, North Carolina, where he delivered the commencement address at Duke University, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said Shinseki, who retired as Army chief of staff in 2003, is leading the Department of Veterans Affairs "with integrity and transparence and energy."
The secretary has been under fire for a backlog of cases in the VA system and, most recently, over allegations that a Phoenix VA facility covered up the deaths of 40 veterans who were on a wait list for medical care. Some senators and veterans groups have called for Shinseki's resignation.
Dempsey said the Defense Department and VA have been working closely together to address problems as service members transition to being veterans. The two departments are "trying to work to make the transition from active care to veterans care much more fluid, much more responsive, much more seamless," he said. "We've made progress, but we haven't made enough progress."
Leaders in both agencies understand the scope of the problems and what needs to be done to correct them, the chairman said.
Dempsey employed the interview as an opportunity to express his confidence in Shinseki.
"I know there is a series of investigations ongoing now, and I have confidence that if anyone can help us make this enterprise ... that flows from DOD to Veterans Affairs, it is him," he said. "And I hope he is given the chance to do it."
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