Durbin and Illinois Delegation Members to Meet With VA Inspector General on Monday

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation will meet with the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), George Opfer, and the Assistant Inspector General for Healthcare Inspections, Dr. John Daigh, on Monday afternoon in Durbin’s Capitol office to discuss the unacceptable standards and treatment of veterans found by the Inspector General at the Marion VA Medical Center. On November 3, Durbin joined with Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) and Congressmen Jerry Costello (D-IL) and John Shimkus (R-IL) in requesting the meeting.


“This week, Secretary Shinseki made a commitment to addressing the problems at Marion VA Medical Center immediately,” said Durbin. “The findings and recommendations in the Inspector General’s report will be crucial as the Quality Management team hits the ground in Marion and changes begin to take shape at the facility. I look forward to meeting with Mr. Opfer and Dr. Daigh who I expect will be able to shed more light on the details of Monday’s report.


[Text of letter below]

November 3, 2009


The Honorable George J. Opfer

Office of the Inspector General (50)

Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20420


Dear Mr. Opfer:


We write regarding the Combined Assessment Program Review of the Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Marion V AMC), Marion, Illinois, released today by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OlG).


We would like to meet with you at the earliest opportunity to discuss the failures outlined in the report and the long-standing quality management issues at Marion VAMC. Problems in the quality of care at Marion VAMC date to at least 2006. Various reviewers since that time -- from the Veterans Health Administration, Office of Health Inspection, and OIG -- have identified concerns with quality management and deficiencies in medical center leadership.


We are shocked that quality management failures have appeared again. The deaths of nine veterans were attributed to surgical malfeasance just two years ago. These issues have caused tremendous concern and garnered sustained attention.


In this most recent review, the OIG reported many quality management failures found during previous reviews. These include lack of sufficient oversight and fragmented and inconsistent reporting structure, inadequate peer review, failure to meet mortality screening requirements, and failure to integrate the patient safety program into all areas of the medical center. In addition, the OIG identified new problems in records review, patient data analysis, and identification of staff needing to maintain life support certifications.


We know the important role that the OIG plays in assuring that our nation's veterans receive quality care and services from the VA. We appreciate your diligence in investigating and documenting the ongoing challenges at Marion VAMC. We look forward to working with VA/OIG and the VA, in the ongoing task to assure that veterans, at Marion and across the nation, receive the safest and highest quality care possible.