Politics

Rep. Miller: Obama administration ‘stonewalling’ on bonus to official who oversaw preventable veteran deaths

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Patrick Howley
Political Reporter

The Obama administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) broke a promise to review a taxpayer-funded bonus to an official who oversaw preventable veteran deaths, according to a congressional committee.

In May, VA promised to conduct a review of a $63,000 bonus awarded to Michael Moreland, a regional director who oversaw the Veterans Administration hospital in Pittsburgh during a nearly two-year outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.

More than 20 illnesses and five deaths from a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak between February 2011 to November 2012. Moreland had several warnings about the outbreak. The head of the Pittsburgh hospital sent Moreland a memo on the outbreak in July 2011. The manufacturer of the hospital’s water system informed hospital officials that the water contained the dangerous legionella bacteria as early as December 2011.

Yet VA held a black-tie awards ceremony celebrating Moreland’s Presidential Distinguished Rank Award in April of this year, not long after the Department received a report to the presence of the dangerous bacteria Legionella at the Pittsburgh hospital, according to the American Legion.

After news reports on Moreland’s management appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other media, the Department announced it would review Moreland’s award and bonus.

But VA recently backtracked and refused to confirm that the bonus given to Moreland, who is retiring November 1 after 34 years at VA, is under review. The Department refused to ever say anything more on the matter.

“After telling every reporter who would listen that Michael Moreland’s outrageous $63,000 bonus is under review, VA has suddenly decided to stonewall the American public on the status of that review. This is an insult to the families of those who died in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System Legionnaires’ disease tragedy and calls into question whether or not the department ever sought to review Moreland’s bonus in the first place,” Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, told The Daily Caller in a statement.

“One thing is clear: VA does not get to decide when this conversation is over,” Miller told TheDC. “Congress and the American people do. We simply will not stand by while VA attempts to quietly shuffle Moreland out the back door with his $63,000 bonus in hand. It’s time for VA to come clean about its review of Moreland’s bonus and take any and all steps necessary to recoup the funds. If department leaders refuse to do so, they owe everyone – especially the families of those who died – an explanation as to why they won’t act.”

VA did not return a request for comment.

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