robert petzelRobert Petzel, a senior official at the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs who penned a May 15 USA Today op-ed piece on the crisis at the federal agency, resigned today.

Petzel, a doctor who is under secretary of health at the VA overseeing healthcare for millions of veterans, was slated to retire this year.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki accepted Petzel's resignation in a statement: 

"Today, I accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs. As we know from the Veteran community, most Veterans are satisfied with the quality of their VA health care, but we must do more to improve timely access to that care. I am committed to strengthening Veterans’ trust and confidence in their VA healthcare system. I thank Dr. Petzel for his four decades of service to Veterans."

Congress has turned up the heat on the agency after reports of long waiting times for care and an alleged cover-up at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system. CNN reported last month that at least 40 veterans died waiting for care.

Petzel's op-ed, "We can, and must, do better," said the agency takes reports of patient care or employee misconduct seriously, noting he was "personally saddened by any adverse consequence that a veteran might experience while in, or as a result of, our care."

President Barack Obama appointed a top aide to work with Shinseki on a review of the reports.

The Veterans Health Administration is the largest integrated healthcare system in the country with a budget of $54B and 277,000 staffers.