Washington — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) sent a letter Thursday to urge President Obama to name a permanent inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA has had only an acting inspector general for more than a year. Sen. Johnson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC), expressed his willingness to work with the president and he urged the president to nominate someone to the position.
The text of the letter is below and an electronic version can be found here.
Dear Mr. President:
I write today regarding the urgent need for a permanent Inspector General to lead the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Office of Inspector General (OIG). During 2014, the country became aware of many problems that veterans encountered at VA medical facilities around the country. Most recently, troubling news at the Tomah VA medical center (VAMC) in Wisconsin underscores the need for you to nominate someone to serve in this important position.
The problems surrounding the Tomah VAMC have led veterans and VA employees to question not only the leadership at the facility but at the VA Office of Inspector General.
I recently became aware of a March 2014 VA Inspector General report centered on a variety of allegations at the Tomah VAMC. Some of the findings were more than troubling. The rate of opioid prescriptions at Tomah VAMC was disturbing enough that issues were brought to the attention of VA leadership. It was also noted that Tomah VAMC ranked highest in the Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) for the total morphine equivalents per unique patients treated with opioids. These issues must be fully investigated for the veterans who rely on this facility for their healthcare.
Further, my office, among others, never received a briefing or the March 2014 Tomah VAMC report from the VA Office of Inspector General. I am currently seeking an explanation from the VA’s Deputy Inspector General.
The VA Office of Inspector General has gone far too long without a permanent Inspector General. Former VA Inspector General Opfer made known his intentions to leave the post in November 2013. Now over a year later this post remains empty and that is unacceptable.
I am hopeful that you along with the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) have narrowed down a list of candidates so we can work together to quickly fill this position.
Having a permanent Inspector General is necessary to root out waste, fraud, and abuse for the taxpayers and bring accountability for millions of veterans. I look forward to working with you to confirm a qualified individual to fill this important post.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs