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Two top Veterans Affairs officials leaving jobs

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Two top Department of Veterans Affairs officials are stepping down, the beleaguered agency announced Wednesday as it continued reeling from complaints that thousands of veterans across the country have endured long waits for appointments and allegations of poor medical care.

The agency said in a written statement that Will A. Gunn is resigning as general counsel. Also leaving a top post is Dr. Robert L. Jesse, who has been acting undersecretary for health.

The statement said the changes were “aimed at accelerating veterans’ access to quality health care and rebuilding the trust of America’s veterans.”

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson made the moves less than a month after he replaced Eric Shinseki as head of the agency. Shinseki resigned May 30 after apologizing for the agency’s problems.

For weeks, the VA has been under a microscope of investigations and congressional hearings. Just this week, the Office of Special Counsel – an independent investigative agency found “a troubling pattern of deficient patient care” that it said VA officials were aware of but downplayed. That included canceled appointments with no follow up, contaminated drinking water improper handling of surgical equipment.

Investigators have also said many patients faced long waits for treatment, including some who died while on waiting lists, and that some officials created fictitious appointment lists to cover up lengthy delays.

The VA said that Dr. Carolyn Clancy will become its interim undersecretary for health.

“Dr. Clancy will be charged with the department’s top priority – getting veterans off of wait lists and in to see their doctors,” Gibson said.

He said Clancy will also lead the search for “immediate, national reforms to accelerate access to care and restore trust among our veterans.”

Tammy Kennedy, VA’s principal deputy general counsel, will be acting general counsel after Gunn’s July 3 departure.