May 20 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is raising concerns about whether the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has strategically used the Office of the Medical Inspector (OMI) to conduct investigations into allegations of wrongdoing at VA facilities knowing the findings would not be released to the public. Unlike reports from the Office of the Inspector General (IG), OMI reports are not made public or released to Congress. Sen. Moran plans to introduce legislation this week to make certain the findings of the OMI are made public so the full scope of the VA’s dysfunction cannot be disguised.
"An important component of an investigation at the Department of Veterans Affairs would be the Office of the Medical Inspector reports,” Sen. Moran said at Thursday’s Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing. “One of the things we’ve discovered is those are not made public and not submitted to Congress, so we don’t know the results of those types of audits, investigations or reviews. I’m pursing legislation to change that so we can see what a report says – excise the names and keep the confidentiality of patients – and see if a recommendation is followed."
According to OMI, their 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 the Secretary of the VA receive a packet on each report from the Under Secretary for Health including the final report. Because OMI reports are not available to the public and have not been previously released to Congress, it is impossible to know whether the VA has taken action to implement the OMI’s recommendations for improvement in each case.
For example, the same Cheyenne VA Medical Center under fire for wait-list manipulation after a whistleblower leaked an email shedding light on the violations being committed was already the subject of an Office of the Medical Inspector report in December 2013. That report already investigated and substantiated claims of improper scheduling practices, and passed them along to the Office of Special Counsel, but the report was only leaked after the whistleblower went public this month. It is still unclear if any action was taken at the Cheyenne VA Medical Center based on the OMI findings in 2013.
It is also unclear what criteria the VA uses to select either the Office of the Medical Inspector or the Office of the Inspector General with conducting investigations into VA wrongdoing.
"If the past is an indicator, I’m not confident these new reports will lead to any action. It’s what the VA does with the findings that matters," Sen. Moran said.
Sen. Moran’s legislation will require the VA to submit a Report to Congress on the findings and recommendations stemming from any Office of Medical Inspector report over the last three years – which were not released to Congress or the public. It will also require the VA to describe any legal or administrative action taken against employees who should not be serving veterans and whether such action was followed through.
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. The hearing followed Sen. Moran’s call for Secretary Shinseki to resign amidst ongoing systemic dysfunction within the VA system.
YOUTUBE: Click here to watch his remarks on YouTube.
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