Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he was "sad" to see the resignation Friday of Veterans Affrairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, but said the care of veterans must come first.

President Barack Obama accepted Shinseki's resignation Friday after a scandal involving delays in providing health care to millions of U.S. veterans.

"The unequivocal goal of the VA must be to provide the highest-quality health care possible to all of our veterans in a timely manner," Sanders said in a statement. "The new leadership must transform the culture of the VA, establish accountability and punish those responsible for the reprehensible manipulation of wait times."

Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, had been a supporter of Shinseki's and on Friday called him "an American hero who courageously served his country in war."

According to news reports, Obama named Shinseki's deputy, Sloan Gibson, as temporary head of the VA.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., also lauded Shinseki's military career but acknowledged a change in leadership was needed.

"The fact that he was unable to lead the VA to a place where it can routinely provide the quality, timely care our veterans earned should be deeply troubling to all of us," Leahy said in a statement. "Systemic reforms, sufficient resources and insistence on accountability will be needed, and promptly."