South Jersey Democrat calls for VA chief's resignation

WASHINGTON – Aimee Belgard, a South Jersey Democrat running for Congress, called Thursday for U.S. Veteran Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in the wake of a scandal showing long delays in providing medical care to veterans.

Many Republicans have also called for Shinseki’s the resignation – including South Jersey U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo – but Belgard is one of very few Democrats to go that far.

"What happened in Phoenix is deplorable and unethical. Those responsible must be held accountable, including Secretary Shinseki. It is beyond me how this could occur under the radar of the Department of Veterans Affairs." Belgard, a Burlington County freeholder, said in a news release. "I'm extremely disheartened by how long it took the Obama Administration to investigate this situation.”

News reports have shown that a Phoenix VA hid delays even as some veterans died while awaiting care.

Belgard’s statement came as she runs in a South Jersey district with a heavy military presence: it is home to the McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst joint base, which employs more than 40,000 people, and the district has around 65,000 veterans. The New Jersey third is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan, a Republican who is not seeking re-election.

Belgard is running in a Democratic primary against attorney Howard Kleinhendler. Steve Lonegan and Tom MacArthur are competing for the Republican nomination.

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