WASHINGTON –– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, joined Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT), Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) in urging Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough to address oversight failures at medical facilities across the country.
Earlier this year, the VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued damning reports detailing failures at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville and the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia that resulted in the deaths of veterans in these facilities. In Fayetteville, the OIG found the Path and Lab Service Chief misdiagnosed more than 3,000 patients over the course of many years, including 589 major diagnostic discrepancies.
“We write to discuss oversight failures at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities. In particular, we are concerned with the failures at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia (Clarksburg), and the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, Arkansas (Fayetteville) that resulted in significant harm and death of veterans in VA’s care. In both instances, facility leadership created cultural conditions that fostered mismanagement and a lack of accountability resulting in tragic outcomes. The Department must work to prevent future similar incidents from occurring, and we request more information about how VA intends to accomplish this objective,” the Senators wrote in a letter to the secretary.
“It is sacrosanct to VA’s mission that veterans trust the medical treatment they receive is high-quality and the people treating them meet all relevant ethical and professional standards required by their field. VA must be proactive in identifying issues with staff as they arise, monitor the quality of care at all levels, and continue to advance a culture of safety at all facilities,” the Senators continued.
Under Boozman’s leadership as then-Chairman of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee, he included language in legislation that required the VA Secretary to submit a departmental response plan to Congress. The provision is now being implemented at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks and for all future cases of clinical disclosures to prevent similar incidents.
Last month, Boozman, Tester and Manchin introduced the Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act to provide the VA OIG with the authority to subpoena testimony from former VA employees who have left federal service, former contractor personnel who performed work for the Department, or other potentially relevant individuals during the course of its inspections, reviews and investigations.
Read the Senators’ full letter here.