Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, blasted the VA on Monday for withholding important documents requested by the House. According to Miller, the committee has made over 100 requests that are still unfulfilled.
The VA’s excuse is that the committee simply doesn’t need the information.
Out of the 100 requests, 63 have been overdue for months. The VA also stated that any documents provided to the committee might end up in public hands — yet another reason why the VA has been hesitant to grant any requests from Congress, AP reports.
Miller wasn’t buying the excuses. “Let there be no mistake or misunderstanding: When this committee requests documents, I expect production to be timely, complete and accurate,” Miller said, according to AP.
In fact, when questioned, the VA inspector general’s chief counsel told the committee that there isn’t any concrete standard for deciding when to keep reports locked down and when to release them to Congress. This means that the matter is simply decided on a case-by-case basis.
The VA has a history of keeping pertinent information from Congress, with acting inspector general Richard Griffin holding on to a draft report on the Phoenix scandal last year, in addition to a report on the problems of opioid overprescription at the Tomah Medical Center in Wisconsin. (RELATED: Review Finds Harmful Prescription Drug Policies At Tomah VA)
The report on manipulated wait times was deemed to be “restricted.” Whistleblowers, who have often struggled with backlash and retaliation from the VA, had to take the lead on exposing the wrongdoing of officials in Phoenix.
“The lack of accountability for those who caused the VA scandal is the single most important factor inhibiting VA’s transformation, and nowhere is this more visible than in Phoenix,” Miller said in a statement. “Nearly a year after the city became the epicenter of VA’s problems, the department has not fired a single Phoenix VA employee for wait time manipulation. In fact, efforts to hold employees accountable in Phoenix have been repeatedly botched.”
In the case of over-prescription in Tomah, the Center for Investigative Reporting didn’t wait for formal reports to be released before putting an enormous amount of pressure on the VA.
In the past, Miller has asked the inspector general to provide all draft reports to the committee, only to be met with the same answer: reports will remain between the VA and inspector general until fully finalized.
“If VA truly wants to be transparent and open, one of the first things it needs to do is stop impeding the committee’s oversight investigations,” Miller added.
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