Eric Shinseki faces claims that patients died at VA hospital while awaiting treatment.
(CBS NEWS) -- The secretary of veteran affairs is defending his record and his job.
Eric Shinseki is under fire - and there are calls for him to resign - amid claims that 40 patients died at the VA Administration Hospital in Phoenix because of delays in their care.
Debbie Allen believes her husband, Mel, a Vietnam veteran, died of bladder cancer after the VA delayed his tests and diagnosis for six months.He'd been a patient at the VA Hospital in Phoenix.
"It's sad," she said. "It's disgusting. It's a betrayal to somebody who was willing to serve his country. And then when Mel needed the VA and needed his country to help him in his time of need, they turned their back on him."
The secretary told us that when first he heard the charges in Phoenix he sent inspectors immediately.
"I take every one of these incidents and allegations seriously, and we're going to go and investigate. The most serious of these were in Phoenix," he said.
But the Phoenix investigation is not the only one. At least five other VA hospitals have been accused of mismanagement and preventable deaths and at two of those - Pittsburgh and Atlanta - VA officials in charge got large bonus checks just after the deaths were revealed.
David Dellinger is the national commander of the American Legion, which called this week for Shinseki to resign.
"If this was private sector, you'd be fired," Dellinger said. "If this was the military, you'd be relieved of duty. And he's done neither."
The secretary told us disciplinary action is pending in Pittsburgh and Atlanta, but the specifics are not yet public.
Shinseki also says he will not resign. Instead he will work to repair what's gone wrong.
Is there any one thing that he is angry about, that he most wants to fix?
"All of this makes me angry, I mean whenever we have allegations like this, even until they're founded," he said. "I didn't come here to watch things happen this way. I came here to make things better. And in the main we've done that."
Despite the break with the American Legion almost every other veterans organization still supports Shinseki for managing the explosion growth of the VA. Shinseki got his strongest endorsement where it counts - full backing from the president.