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Top VA health official resigns

Former VA Undersecretary of Health Robert Petzel testifies in front of Congress.
Former VA Undersecretary of Health Robert Petzel testifies in front of Congress.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images News

The top health official at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) resigned Friday amid growing controversy over VA hospitals' wait times, the White House announced Friday.

The resignation came just one day after the official, VA Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel, testified in front of Congress alongside VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. Their testimony did little to calm what's become a bubbling controversy over wait times and access to care at VA facilities around the country.

The crisis kicked off after several news reports uncovered 40 or more veterans died while waiting for a doctor's appointment in Phoenix, Arizona. CNN pinned the deaths on a secret wait list at the Phoenix VA hospital that allegedly attempted to hide issues with long waiting periods.

The reports quickly sparked major backlash from lawmakers and veterans advocates, which the resignation presumably attempts to allay. But Petzel's resignation comes months after he announced his retirement, so he was on his way out prior to Friday's decision.

VA officials are currently investigating the claims, although previous findings from the Government Accountability Office suggest long wait times are a recurring problem for the VA.

Update: Added more context about Petzel's retirement.