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Embattled VA Secretary Shinseki refusing to resign

FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2013, file photo, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says a leadership change may help resolve what he calls "dysfunction" at the Department of Veterans Affairs, following allegations of corruption and avoidable deaths at the veterans' hospital in Phoenix. McConnell says the tenure of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is "embarrassing" and that the agency is in "a stunning period of dysfunction." McConnell isn't calling for Shinseki to step down, but says a change in leadership "might be a good thing."(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 9, 2013, file photo, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says a leadership change may help resolve what he calls “dysfunction” at the Department of Veterans Affairs, following allegations of corruption and avoidable deaths at the veterans’ hospital in Phoenix. McConnell says the tenure of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is “embarrassing” and that the agency is in “a stunning period of dysfunction.” McConnell isn’t calling for Shinseki to step down, but says a change in leadership “might be a good thing.”(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki brushed aside calls for his resignation on Thursday and got an unexpected political lifeline Thursday from House Speaker John Boehner in the wake of reports that 40 patients died because of delayed treatment at an agency hospital.

“I’m not ready to join the chorus of people calling on him to step down,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a news conference, adding that there is a “systemic management issue throughout the VA that needs to be addressed.”

He said the House is working on legislation that would give head of the agency “more flexibility to fire people.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs has long had a seemingly endless backlog and exceedingly long delays for treatment.

For his part, Shinseki emphasized his own determination to remain in the Cabinet in an interview on CBS. “I take every one of these incidents and allegations seriously, and we’re going to go and investigate,” he said.

Shinseki, a retired Army general, said in the interview that he sent inspectors to Phoenix immediately when he learned of reports about the deaths.

The White House has voiced support amid the calls for Shinseki’s ouster from the American Legion as well as from Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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