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Shinseki calls recent weeks challenging

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May 15, 2014: Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

The embattled secretary of Veterans Affairs says recent weeks have been challenging, but his agency takes caring for veterans seriously.

Eric Shinseki is speaking to advocates for homeless veterans. It's the first time that he has spoken publicly since a scathing inspector general report was released. The report found that about 1,700 veterans in need of care were "at risk of being lost or forgotten" after being kept off an official waiting list.

The investigation found broad and deep-seated problems in the sprawling health care system, which provides medical care to more than 6 million veterans annually.

The retired four-star general received loud applause and a standing ovation when he stepped to the podium to address the group that advocates for homeless veterans.