President Obama announced Friday Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned amid widespread troubles in the VA healthcare system. Now, the VA scandal seems to have found its way into Maine’s gubernatorial race.
Governor LePage was touring businesses in Belfast when he got the news Shinseki had resigned. LePage says his Democratic challenger, Congressman Mike Michaud, should shoulder some of the blame for the scandal involving long and in some cases unnecessary waits for veterans at VA hospitals across the country. In some cases the long waits and delayed care have resulted in some veterans dying.
LePage pointed to a new report released by the VA Inspector General citing 18 reports sent to Congress since 2005 detailing the mismanagement at VA hospitals and potential fixes. LePage says Michaud, who’s been on the Veterans Affairs Committee since 2003 and is now the ranking member was in a position to act, but did not.
“These reports have been coming out since 2005 and all of a sudden he’s running for governor and it’s an emergency,” Lepage said Friday. “All of a sudden. Where’s he been for the last 9 years? Where’s he been? He’s been on the back bench and now he wants to come to the forefront. Leadership is not when you’re running, leadership is all the time.”
Independent candidate Eliot Cutler also piled on Michaud releasing a statement agreeing with Governor LePage and questioning Michaud’s leadership.
“You have to ask the question –Where’s Mike? Where’s his accountability? This is an issue of failed and ineffective leadership, and effective leadership is what the office of governor is all about,” Cuteler said in his statement. “Mr. Michaud says that these are “political” questions that people are asking. He should tell that to veterans who have waited for months to get help, to the families of those who have died as they waited.
Michaud released a statement on Shinseki’s resignation calling this a “sad day” and thanking Shinseki for his service.
“Now is the time for us to move forward – Democrats and Republicans, VSOs and veterans – to work together to address the systemic failures within the VA, and to ensure our veterans receive the high-quality care they deserve.”
A spokesperson for the Michaud campaign says those criticizing Michaud on this issue are simply using veterans as political pawns. It remains to be seen whether the VA scandal will be a major factor for Maine voters in November.