Update: Via Twitter, Jake Tapper noted previous news that the Pittsburgh VA director was put on leave.
Pittsburgh VA dir. put on admin leave. (The 1 who fretted she’d be punished for telling USReps about waiting list) http://t.co/fJqr6sHBsJ
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) June 13, 2014
Two congressmen, one from eash party, are concerned that the national Department of Veterans Affairs actively tried to interfere with their efforts to examine claims that “hundreds of veterans sat on wait lists for years, waiting for health care appointments at the Pittsburgh VA.
If the charges are true, the VA officials responsible should be terminated, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, told CNN.”
Miller and Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle, talked to CNN. Miller spoke of an unsolicited “unusual phone call from Pittsburgh VA director and CEO Terry Gerigk Wolf and deputy director David Cord” that sought to downplay any stories of wait list problems even before the full scope of the issue became clear.
Evidently all that effort did was send up another red flag, as opposed to tamping down any concerns on the part of the congressmen.
Doyle said that Wolf had told him something quite different – that Pittsburgh had up to 700 patients on this wait list, called the NEAR (New Enrollee Appointment Request) List, for veterans enrolling for the first time. Some of these veterans had been waiting years for their first appointment.
Doyle and Murphy say they called Wolf, who told them she knew about the list three weeks before, but was told not to inform the congressional delegation about it for fear she would be fired for disclosing the information.
Also, Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has now released the following statement in response to the CNN Story:
“Interfering with Congress’ constitutionally mandated oversight responsibility is not just wrong, it’s against the law. Right now, Acting VA Sec. Sloan Gibson needs to immediately send a clear and powerful message that criminal behavior will not be tolerated within VA’s ranks. The only way to do this is by immediately firing anyone who directed VA officials not to speak with members of Congress. VA’s reputation is in shambles because top department leaders looked the other way while mid-level bureaucrats lied, cheated and put the health of veterans they were supposed to be serving at risk. Gibson has a unique chance to begin to repair the department’s soiled reputation. But this task will be impossible if he allows blatant violations of the law to go unpunished. Additionally, the Department of Justice should get off the sidelines and start actively pursuing charges where applicable to the fullest extent of the law, as I fear this is certainly not the only instance of possible criminal activity in recent VA history.”
The email below is the statement provided by the VA when the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System director was put on leave.
With the investigation by the U.S. Attorney and VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) completed, VA has initiated administrative actions related to the Legionella outbreak in Pittsburgh.
On June 13, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson directed that VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System Director Terry Gerigk Wolf be placed on administrative leave, pending the completion of administrative actions related to the Legionella outbreak.
VA leadership has initiated actions with careful consideration of the statutory protections and rights of employees, including due process. While we are focused on completing this process in a timely manner, VA’s priority is to carry out these actions objectively and consistent with applicable administrative guidelines.