"The release of OMI reports will allow Americans, the press, Congress and veterans to see what the VA knew, when they knew it and what they did about it."
Jun 23 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today repeated his call for the release of reports by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of the Medical Inspector (OMI) on their investigations into wrongdoing at VA facilities. The release of a letter from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) detailing how VA officials have consistently glossed over problems pointed out by whistle-blowers illustrates the importance of making certain the findings of all OMI investigations see the light of day.
“The Administration continues to say that action will be taken if ‘allegations prove to be true,’ but it is difficult to have faith in their word when we know the VA has turned a blind eye to wrongdoing for so long,” Sen. Moran said. “The fact is, many of the same VA facilities and cases receiving attention today have already been investigated and the claims have been substantiated in years past – yet we do not know what action has been taken because the OMI reports are not made public. The release of past and future OMI reports will allow Americans, the press, Congress and veterans to see what the VA knew, when they knew it and what they did about it.”
Currently, OMI reports are not made public or released to Congress. Because OMI reports are not available for review, it is impossible to know whether the VA has taken any action to implement the OMI’s recommendations for improvement in each case of wrongdoing.
“The VA, and particularly the VA’s Office of the Medical Inspector, has consistently used a ‘harmless error’ defense, where the department acknowledges problems but claims patient care is unaffected,” Carolyn Lerner, who leads the OSC, wrote in a letter to President Obama on Monday. “This approach has prevented the VA from acknowledging the severity of systemic problems and from taking the necessary steps to provide quality care to veterans.”
On May 22, 2014, the full Senate Committee on Appropriations passed an amendment authored by Sen. Moran during mark-up of the fiscal year 2015 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill requiring the VA to submit routine Reports to Congress on the findings and recommendations stemming from any OMI report. The initial Report to Congress will cover Medical Inspector reports over the last four years detailing the findings, recommendations and legal or administrative actions resulting from the investigation. Sen. Moran’s amendment would require the VA to detail any legal or administrative action taken against employees identified in these investigations, who should not be serving veterans and whether such action was followed through.
In addition to passage by the Appropriations Committee, the amendment was also introduced as a stand-alone bill in the full Senate (S. 2401) by Sen. Moran and U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and has 7 bipartisan cosponsors.
According to OMI, their unreleased Blue Cover Reports contain conclusions and recommendations for improvement, based on findings from a case investigation or national assessment. The OMI’s recommendations may be for an individual facility, a Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) or all of VHA. The Under Secretary for Health approves all OMI final reports, and in response to a final report, VA facilities, VISNs and VHA program offices – as appropriate – prepare action plans to address report recommendations.
VHA policy requires that OMI provide copies of all final reports and their recommended action plans to the VA Secretary and nine other offices within the VA, including: Under Secretary for Health; Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health; Deputy Under Secretary of Health for Operations and Management; Office of Quality and Safety; Office of Performance Management; Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Policy and Services; Freedom of Information Act Officer; VA Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs; Office of Healthcare Inspections, VA Office of the Inspector General; and any other offices or facilities responsible for policy related to the report or for carrying out any part of the action plan.
It is unclear what criteria the VA uses to select either the OMI or the OIG with conducting investigations into VA wrongdoing.
Sen. Moran has been a member of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees for 18 years, chaired the Health Subcommittee in the House for two years, and has worked with nine VA Secretaries.
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