Shinseki leaves Obama’s Cabinet over scandal

WASHINGTON — Eric Shinseki, a Japanese American who served as U.S. secretary of veterans affairs, stepped down from the Cabinet post on May 30 following problems in the healthcare system for veterans, President Barack Obama said.

Obama told a press conference at the White House that he has accepted an offer of resignation by Shinseki. The 71-year-old was the second U.S. Cabinet member of Japanese descent after Norman Mineta, who was commerce secretary from 2000-2001 and transportation secretary from 2001-2006.

“Secretary Shinseki offered me his own resignation. With considerable regret, I accept it,” Obama said.

The department is tasked with improving welfare for more than 20 million retired soldiers nationwide. It is the second largest U.S. federal government organ after the Department of Defense.

The departure of Shinseki will likely deal a blow to Obama ahead of the midterm congressional elections in November.

Shinseki, a retired four-star general, resigned to take responsibility for the cover-up of medical system problems at a veterans hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., where new patients have been kept waiting for nearly four months on average.

The hospital is also at the center of a scandal in which more than 40 patients allegedly died without timely treatment.

Shinseki is a third-generation Japanese American who was born in Hawai‘i. He served in the Vietnam War and became chief of staff of the U.S. Army in 1999.

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