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Senators ask Pence, Trump transition team, to hold troubled VA accountable

By   /   December 16, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 38 of 47 in the series Tomah VA Scandal

MADISON, Wis. – Two U.S. senators are urging Vice President-elect Mike Pence, head of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, to hold the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs accountable for past failures.

In a letter to Pence, Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, write that the growing allegations of mismanagement and wrongdoing at VA facilities nationwide are becoming more concerning.

“Whether it is unreasonable wait times at multiple facilities, the widespread overprescription of highly addictive opioids, veteran suicides, misconduct by VA management, or retaliation against whistleblowers, it is clear that not all veterans are receiving the high-quality care they deserve,” Johnson and Grassley wrote. “We are hopeful that under new leadership, the VA can embrace these principles to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive the care they deserve.”

Johnson is chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Grassley is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

AP file photo

TROUBLED VA: Sens. Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley sent a letter to VP-elect Mike Pence, head of the Trump transition team, urging more forceful leadership on the troubled VA system.

The senators say they are particularly troubled by the veteran suicide epidemic, noting that they have strongly urged the VA inspector general to investigate suicides among Iowa and Wisconsin veterans to determine if the VA failed in its care. If so, how can the agency ensure such “failures never happen again.”

Congress, in the wake of the wait time scandals at the Phoenix VA, passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014. The law established a pilot program in which veterans could seek care outside of the VA if they were unable to schedule an appointment within 30 days, or if they live far away from a VA facility.

“This program has not been implemented according to the letter and intent of the law, making it difficult to use for veterans,” the senators wrote. “We hope that under new leadership, the VA improves and expands the Choice Program for those veterans who wish to seek care from non-VA providers.”

RELATED: Tomah VA employee: ‘We have forgotten who we work for’

Wisconsin’s Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been riddled with scandal.  The hospital, known as ‘Candy Land” after reports detailed widespread overprescription of opioids, has found itself in the national spotlight again following word that nearly 600 veterans may have been exposed to serious infections.

“We believe the vast majority of VA employees are dedicated and hard-working civil servants,” Grassley and Johnson wrote.  “However, the current Administration has shown that it is either unwilling or unable to hold employees accountable for wrongful conduct.

“The failure to hold officials accountable poisons the entire workforce.”

Read the full letter here.

Part of 47 in the series Tomah VA Scandal
  1. After damaging silence, Baldwin now calls for probe of troubled VA center
  2. Legal expert says U.S. Sen Tammy Baldwin is in full ‘damage control’
  3. Baldwin aide breaks silence, alleges senator engaged in ‘coverup’
  4. Baldwin’s public relations team kicks into high gear following ethics complaint
  5. Ethics watchdog urges Senate committee to investigate Baldwin
  6. Tammy Baldwin’s political fixer is helping Hillary attack voter ID
  7. Senate committee asking if FBI missed the call in veteran’s death at VA
  8. When lawmakers failed Wisconsin’s veterans
  9. Is political pressure behind Lin Ellinghuysen’s differing accounts on VA memo?
  10. Bernie Sanders failed to act in deadly VA scandal, whistleblower says
  11. Does government union chief’s threat show AFGE’s hand on veterans care?
  12. What would Russ Feingold’s 1992 self say to the 2015 version?
  13. Ad attacking Feingold asserts veterans died because of ‘politicians who looked the other way’
  14. Feingold’s campaign caught up in VA scandal memo war
  15. PolitiFact Wisconsin trusts Russ Feingold to deliver its facts
  16. Sources: Ron Kind received call from Jason Simcakoski not long before Marine’s tragic death
  17. Captain Campaign Finance Reform, Russ Feingold, changes ‘dark money’ tune
  18. Baldwin talks transparency while keeping her secrets in Tomah VA scandal
  19. Ron Kind knew about Tomah VA abuse years before the story broke
  20. Ron Kind now solving Tomah VA scandal one press release at a time
  21. Tammy Baldwin silent on her failures as she blasts Tomah VA medical center
  22. Tomah VA whistleblower says he’s getting pressure from unhappy Dems
  23. Feingold’s facts fail again in face of Tomah scandal
  24. Senate field hearing to shine more light on Tomah VA scandal
  25. Tomah VA supervisor accused of misconduct gets promoted
  26. Senate hearing to look deeper into scandal-plagued Tomah VA hospital
  27. Kind flees questions, Senate committee turns up heat on Tomah VA hospital scandal
  28. Report: Tomah VA hospital story is one of ‘systemic failures’
  29. Tomah VA hospital whistleblower: ‘It will not change’
  30. Ron Kind breaks silence on call from veteran victim at Tomah VA hospital
  31. VA union holds rally to save itself, Tomah whistleblower says
  32. Sound familiar? Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth accused of retaliation at VA
  33. Emails say Tomah VA patient reached out to Feingold, Kind, in 2008 about abuse
  34. Johnson: Hold accountable those who put Tomah veterans at risk of HIV, hepatitis
  35. Veteran jumps out of third-floor window at Tomah VA hospital
  36. Tomah VA employee: ‘We have forgotten who we work for’
  37. Congressional committees want answers on Tomah VA hospital
  38. Senators ask Pence, Trump transition team, to hold troubled VA accountable
  39. Veterans advocate: VA hospitals’ ‘improvement’ doesn’t tell whole story
  40. Tomah VA Medical Center’s ‘Candy Man’ stripped of license
  41. Opinions differ on whether it’s ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ at Tomah VA
  42. Latest data show Tomah VA hospital improving in opioid prescriptions, veteran satisfaction
  43. VA secretary nominee faces little resistance, lots of challenges
  44. Insiders: Tomah VA troubles continue with nurse shortage, neglectful care
  45. VA whistleblower has questions for Congressman Ron Kind
  46. Johnson brings back whistleblower protection bill as Sunshine Week opens
  47. Iraq war veteran burned by ‘very frustrating process’ at VA


M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.