Officials in the Obama administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appear to have illegally instructed VA employees to stonewall a congressional investigation into the department’s scandals, according to House Committee on Veterans Affairs chairman Rep. Jeff Miller.
“There is a troubling pattern of incidents in which VA officials appear to have been instructed to stonewall, or have possibly tried to mislead Congress,” Miller wrote in a letter Monday to Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, which CC’ed Attorney General Eric Holder and which was obtained by The Daily Caller. “As you know, interfering with Congress’ constitutionally mandated oversight responsibility is not just wrong, it is against the law.”
Miller, who is investigating VA for secret waiting lists and other factors that led to preventable veteran deaths at VA medical clinics, warned that VA supervisors “can face adverse employment action and have payment of their salaries suspended” for impeding Congress.
Miller outlined three examples of potentially illegal activity:
“…Veterans Integrated Service Network 4 Director Gary Devansky, on behalf of Veterans Heath Administration Director of Network Support Vivieca Wright, instructed VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System Director and Chief Executive Officer Terry Gerigk Wolf not to speak with members of Congress about a list of some 700 veterans waiting for VA appointments,” Miller wrote.
“In an internal VA email, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management Janet Murphy directed dozens of high-level VA officials not to talk to VA stakeholders, including members of local congressional delegations,” Miller wrote.
“According to Rep. Martha Roby, Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System Director James Talton falsely told her that employees responsible for wait time manipulation had been terminated when, in fact, recent reports show that no one has been fired,” Miller wrote.
“The above events call into question whether the perpetrators have violated federal law. Some examples of particular U.S. Code sections that could have been violated include falsification, obstruction, and impeding Congress,” Miller wrote, highlighting three statues — Title 18 Section 1001, Title 18, Section 1505, Title 5 Section 7211 — pertaining to falsification, obstruction, and impeding Congress.
Miller gave Acting Secretary Gibson until close of business Friday to provide details about steps the agency is taking to hold supervisors accountable. TheDC previously reported that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating allegations of VA whistle-blower reprisal in 19 different states.