PoliticsPress Release

Boozman: Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act should now pass House

PRESS RELEASE

WASHINGTON – Legislation led by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) to strengthen oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for veterans and taxpayers unanimously passed the U.S. Senate Thursday.

The Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act of 2021 would provide the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) 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 its inspections, reviews and investigations.

The bipartisan bill introduced by Boozman, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) now advances to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

“Expanding the VA OIG’s authority so it can conduct more thorough investigations will improve transparency and accountability, ensuring our veterans get the care and services they have earned,” Boozman said. “Passage of this bipartisan legislation delivers on our commitment to make sure we fulfill the promises made to veterans. I urge the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and deliver this much-needed reform to the president’s desk.”

“We’ve got to see to it that the VA Office of Inspector General has the tools to provide additional oversight over the Department on behalf of veterans and taxpayers,” said Chairman Tester. “The Senate’s unanimous passage of our bipartisan bill means we’re one step closer to providing this important watchdog with greater ability to detect fraud, abuse and waste at all levels, and I encourage my House colleagues to pass it without delay.”

“Our veterans have made great sacrifices to protect our nation. Now, it is our duty to take care of them and that starts with ensuring accountability at the VA. West Virginia veterans have experienced the horrific impacts of top-down VA leadership failures, resulting in the tragic deaths of seven Veterans at the Clarksburg VA Medical Center. The Office of the Inspector General currently does not have testimonial subpoena powers, which resulted in the OIG having limited authority during the Clarksburg VAMC investigation. Our bipartisan legislation addresses this oversight by granting the OIG the authority to conduct thorough investigations. I’m pleased our bill has unanimously passed the Senate and I look forward to President Biden signing this important legislation into law,” Manchin said.

Under current law, VA OIG does not have testimonial subpoena authority to compel individuals relevant to investigations to answer questions in person and under oath. This can limit both VA OIG and Congress’ ability to conduct complete and thorough reviews, including of VA health care and benefits programs, management actions and contracts. The Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act of 2021 would expand VA OIG’s authority to provide stronger oversight over the Department.

Last year, VA OIG issued damning reports tied to the failures at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville and the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia that resulted in the deaths of veterans in these facilities. VA OIG has also identified additional investigations since 2017 where expanded subpoena authority would have assisted the independent watchdog in investigating patient safety, procurement and ethical conflicts of interest.

This legislative action to improve oversight for veterans and taxpayers has strong backing from leading advocates including Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Project on Government Oversight.

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