Still no accountability at Tomah VA

WASHINGTON – Today marks the end of a 30-day plan that the Dept. of Veterans Affairs implemented to fix the problems at the Tomah VA Medical Center. Despite efforts to curb the overprescribing of opiates by VA doctors, some lawmakers say it’s not enough.

“Even though you can be a bad actor, you can harm people in the VA system, you can never get fired. We want to make sure if you are one of those bad actors, you lose your job,” said Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI). Duffy says veterans are locked into dangerous care because it’s impossible to fire a bad VA employee.

Republican Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson actually issued a subpoena for more documents about the Tomah abuse from the VA Office of Inspector General, the oversight organization charged with making sure the department is running effectively and efficiently.

“You can’t do these investigations these inspections, write a report, then deep 6 those reports,” Johnson says. “Those reports should be made public.”

He says he thinks the VA needs an independent and permanent Inspector General – saying the acting IG is protecting the agency instead of holding VA workers accountable.

After several attempts at requesting an interview, the VA IG spokesperson “respectfully” declined the invitation.

Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) says he thinks the problem of opiate abuse is happening throughout the VA, saying he’s trying to be patient and wait for more reports.

“I am calling on the VA IG to publish all reports, “he says. “This idea of hiding the ball and only releasing it when it’s requester or under FOIA is ridiculous.”

Some senators in Congress are trying to hold the IG office accountable. Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic Senator from Wisconsin, says it’s not just a problem with just the VA IG, but across the board.

She says there are complaints not only in the VA but other agencies of falling short on the job.

The head of the VA, Secretary Robert McDonald says his department is taking necessary steps, and has even relieved some workers of their duties.

“We’ve taken disciplinary action,” he says. “We’ve taken the individuals who were involved out of the chain of command there.”

But it’s clear the Wisconsin lawmakers don’t think that disciplinary action is enough.

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