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September 23, 2017

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US Veterans Affairs official resigns amid scandal

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama's under-fire Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned Friday, paying the price for an expanding scandal over failures in health care for America's retired warriors.

"Secretary Shinseki offered his resignation. With considerable regret, I accepted," a pained Obama said, bowing to political reality, and letting go a treasured colleague he often hailed as an "American hero."

The president said that an initial review by Shinseki, 71, had found that delays and other management failures in veterans' health care were not confined to one facility in Arizona, but were systemic and nationwide.

"As he told me this morning, the VA needs new leadership. He does not want to be a distraction," Obama said in a hurriedly arranged on-camera statement.

"My assessment is that unfortunately he is right."

Obama struck an authoritative pose, seeking to convey decisiveness and resolve in the eye of a widening political storm over the treatment of veterans.

"I said we wouldn't tolerate misconduct, and we will not. I said that we have to do better, and we will."

The scandal of delays of weeks and months for veterans waiting for health appointments struck close to home for the Obama administration.

The president made taking care of American soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan a centerpiece of his 2008 White House campaign.

The concern for the welfare of retired warriors is no doubt sincere among top administration officials. Obama's wife Michelle and Vice President Joe Biden's wife Jill often advocate for the rights of veterans.

But it also offered Obama political cover when he was effectively running as an anti-war candidate, fanning discontent over Iraq, but could not be seen to be unsympathetic to the U.S. soldiers doing the fighting.

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