(RNN) - President Barack Obama announced the resignation of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary General Eric Shinseki following several tumultuous weeks and pressure from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
Operations at the Department of Veterans Affairs came into question after reports of long wait times at healthcare facilities became an issue, especially in Phoenix where dozens of people allegedly died as a result.
An inspector general's report detailed improper scheduling procedures throughout the VA hospital system.
"Our veterans deserve the best, they've earned it," Obama said Friday while speaking inside the White House.
Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, who was confirmed to that position this past February, will become acting head of the department.
The president had previously voiced support for the embattled VA head, but said the resignation was Shinseki's idea and based on his own "good judgement."
Before accepting his resignation, Obama said Shinseki had begun the process of firing key people at the Phoenix VA.
"The VA is a very big organization that has had problems for a very long time, sometimes management problems sometimes funding problems," Obama said. "What we try to do is systematically identify the problem and go after it."
House Speaker John Boehner reacted by saying the change in leadership was merely superficial, not a move toward finding a solution.
"Until the president outlines a vision and an effective plan for addressing the broad dysfunction at the VA, today's announcement really changes nothing," Boehner said.
Shinseki made public comments Friday morning prior to the president's announcement, saying his office was working to contact each of the 1,700 veterans in Phoenix waiting for treatment. The goal is to accelerate care for them and others on waiting lists nationwide.
"We now know the VA has a systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity within some of our veterans' health facilities," Shinseki said. "That breach of trust involves the tracking of patient wait times for appointments. Our initial findings of our ongoing internal review of other large VA healthcare facilities also shows that to be true. That breach of integrity is irresponsible, indefensible and unacceptable."
He also said he was "too trusting of some" working in the system and called upon Congress to support a proposed bill that would give the VA secretary greater power to remove senior officials.
Shinseki is a retired Army four-star general and has served as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs since January 2009. He served as Chief of Staff of the Army from 1999 until 2003, a tenure that included overseeing operations in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He retired from active duty in August 2003.
He is a 1965 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation, he was wounded twice while serving two tours of duty during the Vietnam War.
Shinseki also holds a master's degree from Duke University and is a graduate of the National War College.
The VA healthcare system was established in 1930 and currently has more than 1,700 facilities in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Philippines, Guam and American Samoa. That includes 152 hospitals, but the bulk of those facilities are the VA's 800 outpatient clinics.
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