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White House Promises To Find A Permanent VA Inspector General

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The White House promised last week to find a permanent replacement for the post of Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general.

“This administration has been committed to strong inspectors general,” a White House statement read, according to Military Times. “The administration also believes strongly in transparency and accountability in government, and inspectors general play a critical role in furthering those objectives.”

Officials neither gave a timeline as to when President Barack Obama would nominate a permanent IG, nor stated why the post has remained vacant for so long.

George Opfer, the previous permanent IG, resigned in December 2013, at which point Richard Griffin automatically took over the vacant slot, where he stayed for 18 months.

Griffin resigned last month, following pressure from veterans’ organizations and legislators who accused him of taking direction from the White House and VA in writing investigative reports and downplaying the seriousness of the waitlist scandal in Phoenix. Now that he’s resigned after 43 years of work for the federal government, Linda Halliday has moved from assistant IG to deputy IG.

A group of senators led by Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin recently called for a permanent replacement as soon as possible, arguing that it would help to restore trust in the troubled department. As recently as last week, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson slammed the office, accusing them of blocking congressional oversight and refusing to answer a subpoena, as well as assassinating the character of whistleblowers instead of working to ensure accountability. (RELATED: Senator Slams VA Inspector General For Trying To Whitewash Tomah Problems)

“The VA OIG’s entire course of conduct during its interactions with the committee on this matter has been baffling,” Johnson wrote in the letter to Halliday. “The OIG has gone to great lengths to hide its work from Congress and the American public.”

In particular, Johnson pointed out that the office was trying to avoid addressing issues of abusive staff behavior, whistleblower retaliation, and opioid overprescription at the Tomah facility in Wisconsin.

Two weeks ago, VA whistleblower Ryan Honl confronted Obama in Wisconsin as he stepped off Air Force One and asked him to appoint a permanent IG from outside the VA. Obama replied that he couldn’t select someone outside the department, as that would violate federal law. (RELATED: VA Whistleblower Tells Obama In Person To Pick A Permanent Inspector General)

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