Trying to deliver healthcare to all US veterans ... President Barack Obama announces the resignation of US Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki.

Trying to deliver healthcare to all US veterans ... President Barack Obama announces the resignation of US Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki. Photo: Reuters

President Obama on Friday accepted the resignation of Veterans' Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, hours after the beleaguered retired general apologised and accepted responsibility for the healthcare scandal that has turned his agency into a political war zone.

Shinseki met with the president on Friday morning about how to deal with the agency’s failures to provide healthcare for veterans in a timely manner and efforts to keep the names of hundreds of veterans off of official lists to hide that they were not being served.

Speaking to reporters after the session, Obama announced that Shinseki has offered his resignation and that the president had accepted it “with regret.”

US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki handed in his resignation after discovering the VA healthcare scandal was wider than first thought.

US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki handed in his resignation after discovering the VA healthcare scandal was wider than first thought. Photo: Getty Images

Shinseki had said the VA needed new leadership to address the problems and that the former general didn’t want to be a distraction, Obama said.

“I said we have to do better, and we will,” the president said at the White House.

Sloan Gibson, a West Point graduate who served as a Army infantry officer and is currently the deputy secretary, will take over as acting secretary. He is a former banker and former president and chief executive of the United Services Organisations.

Shinseki's departure comes as calls have been growing in Congress among some veterans groups for Shinseki, a wounded Vietnam War veteran and former Army chief of staff, to step aside.

More than 125 members of Congress, including 42 Democrats, have called for Shinseki to step down or for the president to replace him.

In his first public appearance to discuss the crisis since the VA inspector general issued a scathing report on the situation on Wednesday, Shinseki acknowledged earlier Friday that the problems in his agency were systemic.

He said he had earlier thought the difficulties were an isolated problem at the Phoenix VA hospital, but now realised the problems were broader and that he accepted responsibility for them.

“I was too trusting of some,” Shinseki told a conference on homeless veterans. “I can’t explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our healthcare facilities. This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform.’’

“I will not defend it because it is indefensible. But I can take responsibility for it, and I do,” he said. “Given the facts I now know, I apologise as the senior leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs.’’

In his first public appearance to discuss the crisis since the VA inspector general issued a scathing report on the situation on Wednesday, Shinseki acknowledged earlier on Friday that the problems in his agency were systemic.

He said he had earlier thought the difficulties were an isolated problem at the Phoenix VA hospital, but now realised the problems were broader and that he accepted responsibility for them.

“I was too trusting of some,” Shinseki told a conference on homeless veterans. “I can’t explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our healthcare facilities. This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform.’’

“I will not defend it because it is indefensible. But I can take responsibility for it, and I do,” he said. “Given the facts I now know, I apologise as the senior leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs.’’

The Los Angeles Times