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Benishek Questions VA Officials

Dr. Benishek: Lack of Transparency at VA is Unacceptable

Answers from VA Officials at Hearing Demonstrates Problems Still Exist 

Washington, D.C.- Yesterday evening, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the public release of findings from internal VA investigations.  Testimony was given by the VA Inspector General’s Chief Counsel, Maureen Regan, and the VA General Counsel Leigh Bradley.  During the hearing, it was revealed that the VA has no standards for releasing the findings of their investigations on wait times, mismanagement, and other issues.

Congressman Benishek directly asked if the VA had a policy of concealing report findings from the public.  Regan replied by saying, “I don’t know what the standard procedure is.”

In addition, Dr. Benishek asked Bradley to account for false testimony given to the committee at a February 10 hearing.  When asked by Congressman Benishek for average patient wait times at the Greater LA VA Medical Center, Dr. Skye McDougall, Acting Director of the Desert Pacific Healthcare Network, testified “about four days.” According to a CNN report released March 14, that claim is “simply not true,” and that the actual wait time was 48 days.  “Was McDougal misinformed or was she deliberately trying to misrepresent wait times at the facility?” asked Benishek.

Following the hearing, Congressman Benishek said, “It is clear that our work cleaning up the bureaucratic mess at the VA is far from done.  It is unbelievable to me that the top lawyer for the IG’s office does not know their policy on the public release of investigation results.  Faced with a VA that continually gives misleading testimony to Congress, it’s more important than ever that the agency charged with investigating the VA be independent.  I am committed to pursuing all options, including legislation, to ensure that the public knows the results of inquiries into the quality of care for our veterans.”

The hearing also addressed the ongoing issue surrounding the over-prescription of opiates to veterans at the Tomah facility in Wisconsin and other VA clinics around the country.  Last year, as Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Health, Congressman Benishek conducted a preliminary hearing on the over-use of addictive prescription drugs.  Additionally, the Congressman authored a letter last month to the Secretary and Inspector General of the VA demanding answers and transparency on the closed, administrative reports about the Tomah facility.  The hearing yesterday continues to build on that work.

“What happened in Tomah is a disgrace.  How many more veterans must suffer death by a VA prescription pad before this administration acts?” said Congressman Benishek.  “We need to get to the bottom of what occurred in Wisconsin, and we must ensure that this sort of abuse never occurs again.”

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