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Barrow, Cassidy call on DOJ to appoint special counsel to investigate VA

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WFXG) -

U.S. Congressmen John Barrow (D-GA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) announced today they will introduce a bipartisan resolution in the House of Representatives calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate misconduct at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

"We're just beginning to get the full picture of the problems at the VA, and the resignation of one person isn't going to fix what's broken," said Congressman Barrow. "We have to make sure we hold all of the appropriate people responsible, and do whatever it takes to make sure it never happens again. The best way to move forward is to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate the allegations in this report.  If they're found to be true, crimes have been committed, and those responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

"The internal VA audit released last week confirmed our suspicions that the VA is being mismanaged. Now a Special Council should be appointed to determine whether or not this mismanagement is criminal," said Dr. Bill Cassidy. "We have an obligation to care for our troops when they return home. The internal VA audit showed that this responsibility is being ignored. This investigation will help us work towards implementing patient-centered reforms that put our veterans' healthcare interests above bureaucrats."

The resolution comes after a VA audit found that more than 57,000 veterans are waiting more than 90 days for an appointment and, in some cases, schedulers were told by supervisors to alter appointment request dates to make wait times appear shorter. Both Congressmen Barrow and Cassidy represent VA Medical Centers identified as needing further review in the audit. 

The findings from the VA audit are available by clicking here.

The draft text of the resolution is available below:

Whereas revelations in 2013 unveiled a pattern of inefficiency and misconduct at Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Clinics (VAMC) across the country;

Whereas on June 9, 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released an initial audit of VA medical centers across the country, conducted by the VA Inspector General, detailing a pattern of mismanagement;

Whereas the VA Inspector General conducted interviews with VA employees and inspected VA facilities across the country from May 12, 2014 through June 3, 2014, at the direction of the Secretary of the VA;

Whereas the Inspector General's audit found that VAMC scheduling staff were pressured by VA management "to utilize inappropriate practices in order to make waiting times appear more favorable";

Whereas the VA will undergo a review to determine why "some front-line, middle, and senior managers felt compelled to manipulate the VA's scheduling process";

Whereas in at least two instances, survey participants believed someone, other than a scheduler, was "routinely accessing records and changing desired dates in order to improve performance measures";

Whereas in 24 interview locations, respondents felt "threatened or coerced" to alter patient appointment dates, with employees at 14 locations reporting having been "sanctioned or punished over scheduling practices for not complying with supervisors' orders to inappropriately enter or alter recorded desired dates";

Whereas the Code of Federal Regulations requires the Attorney General to appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines –

(1)        That criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted;

(2)        That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by the United States Attorney's Office litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances, and

(3)        That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter:

Now, therefore be it resolved, that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that –

(1)        The actions by Senior Department of Veterans Affairs officials represent a clear violation of the public's trust for the Department to provide quality access to health care for our nation's veterans;

(2)        The ability of the Administration to objectively investigate its own wrongdoing warrants a Special Counsel to determine whether mismanagement and misconduct at the Department of Veterans Affairs was criminal; and

(3)        The appointment of a Special Counsel would be in the public interest.

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