Top Veterans Affairs Health Official Resigns Ahead of Retirement

News that the top health official at the Department of Veterans Affairs stepped down Friday — ahead of his retirement — was met with skepticism from critics who say they want more answers about the agency’s backlog of disability claims and a series of deaths at VA hospitals.

Dr. Robert Petzel’s resignation as the VA’s under secretary of health came a day after he and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki came under stiff questioning by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee over the problems at the VA. Shinseki said then he was “mad as hell” about the agency’s failings.

The VA had announced last year that Petzel, who had been in his post since 2010, would retire in 2014 but would remain in the job until a successor could be confirmed. The White House announced on May 1 that it intended to nominate Jeffrey Murawsky, director of the VA’s Illinois-based Great Lakes Health Care System, as the new under secretary for health.

“Today’s announcement” about “Petzel’s ‘resignation’ is the pinnacle of disingenuous political doublespeak,” House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller said in a statement, adding, “characterizing this as a ‘resignation’ just doesn’t pass the smell test,” and accusing the agency of “resort[ing] to what it does best: splitting semantic hairs to create the illusion of accountability and progress.”