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Shinseki's farewell to VA workers: 'Dignity, compassion, dedication'

Shinseki's farewell to VA workers: 'Dignity, compassion, dedication'
Before resigning, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki spoke at the annual conference of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. (Jim LoScalzo / European Pressphoto Agency)

For Eric K. Shinseki, Friday began with a prepared speech to a group dedicated to ending veterans' homelessness, which had been a top priority of his.

Then the 71-year-old retired four-star general met with President Obama and offered to resign. The president accepted, knowing the firestorm was still growing after two preliminary reports -- one by the VA inspector general and the other an internal audit ordered by the White House -- showed systemic problems in the Veterans Affairs healthcare system nationwide.

When Shinseki took the oath of office Jan. 21, 2009, as the seventh secretary of Veterans Affairs, he promised this: "The overriding challenge I am addressing from my first day in office is to make the Department of Veterans Affairs a 21st century organization focused on the nation's veterans as its clients."

But on Friday, more than five years after taking on what seemed to many an impossible assignment at the VA, Shinseki said goodbye to his employees with this letter:

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