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Veterans Affairs department rejects call for leader to quit

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The Indianapolis-based American Legion, the nation's largest veterans service group, called Monday for the resignations of U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and two of his top aides amid an investigation into allegations of corruption and unnecessary deaths at the veterans' hospital in Phoenix.

Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger accused Shinseki, Under Secretary of Health Robert Petzel and Under Secretary of Benefits Allison Hickey of poor oversight and leadership failures.

"The existing leadership has exhibited a pattern of bureaucratic incompetence and failed leadership that has been amplified in recent weeks," Dellinger said during a news conference at the organization's headquarters.

The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a statement rejecting the call for the resignations.

The Phoenix hospital has been under fire over allegations that up to 40 patients may have died because of delays in care and that the hospital kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide the treatment delays. Shinseki announced Thursday that three officials there have been placed on leave.

Dellinger also cited VA's acknowledgement that 23 have died as a result of delayed care in recent years and the findings of an investigation by the VA's Office of Medical Inspector that clerks at the Fort Collins, Colorado, clinic were instructed last year on how to falsify appointment records. Other problems have occurred in Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia, he said.

"There needs to be a change, and that change needs to occur at the top," Dellinger said.

VA spokesman Drew Brookie issued a statement praising Shinseki's record leading the agency.

"Secretary Shinseki has dedicated his life to his fellow Veterans, and nobody is more committed to completing the work that lies ahead," the statement said.

Separately, the White House issued a statement saying President Barack Obama "remains confident in Secretary Shinseki's ability to lead the Department."

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