Updated 6:00 p.m. ET
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has no imminent intention of stepping down, he indicated Thursday, flouting a growing chorus of lawmakers and veterans' groups calling for him to do so amid widespread allegations of fraud and abuse at VA medical centers across the country.
Among other charges, VA officials have been accused of falsifying or misrepresenting waiting lists for medical care, forcing veterans to delay needed treatments. Dozens of deaths have been linked to the misconduct.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Wednesday said he's inching closer to joining the accumulating gaggle of lawmakers rallying for the secretary's dismissal. Across the country, sentiment seems to be shifting that way, too: A CBS News poll out Thursday shows Americans believe Shinseki shoulders more blame than either local VA hospitals or President Obama.
But speaking with reporters after a meeting with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Capitol Hill, Shinseki suggested it's ultimately up to President Obama as to whether he ought to tender his resignation in the wake of the revelations.
"I serve at the pleasure of the president," he said. "I came here to do one thing - take care of veterans and [their] families. We have run hard for five years; I think we have good things to show for it. There's more to be done."
Asked whether he feels he has the president on his side, Shinseki said, "I believe I do, yes," but answered later he has "no idea" whether that will remain the case following an ongoing probe by the Inspector General (IG). Mr. Obama on Wednesday defended Shinseki's performance but added that he's awaiting the results of the IG report before deciding on punitive action.
"I know that Ric's attitude is if he doesn't think he can do a good job on this and if he thinks he's let our veterans down, then I'm sure that he is not going to be interested in continuing to serve," the president said. "I want to see...what the results of these reports are, and there is going to be accountability."
Shinseki on Thursday said his administration will have "a good read" of how to correct the rampant misconduct by the end of May, but noted they also have "some ideas about what we should be doing right now." He did say the Hines VA Medical Center in Illinois, where a VA social worker and employee representative allege there are multiple secret waiting lists of veterans, has not yet cropped up in their audit.
"Every day I come to work, the idea is to make things better for veterans," Shinseki said. "This is Memorial Day weekend, and we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to remember. Veterans have done so much for this country. I happen to be a veteran; I understand what this is about. And they deserve our best work, and they are going to get it."
In a blog post Thursday night addressed to veterans, Shinseki echoed those remarks, and promised the VA is "re-doubling its efforts, with integrity and compassion, to earn your trust." He added that though the VA has a lot to be proud of with regard to its medical services, "those accomplishments notwithstanding... if any allegations under review are substantiated, we will act."