Durbin Calls for Face-to-Face with VA Secretary to Discuss Ongoing Problems at Hines VA Hospital
Senator: corrective actions should be implemented immediately
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – After an independent federal agency issued a report detailing serious deficiencies with the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation into whistleblower allegations of wait times and delays in veterans’ access to mental health care at Hines VA Hospital, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked Secretary McDonald to meet personally to discuss steps that may be necessary to provide quality, timely care for veterans and uphold transparency and accountability within the Department. In addition to requesting a meeting with Secretary McDonald, Durbin also called on the VA to “implement immediately corrective actions at Hines VA Hospital to address the concern of wait times and timely response to whistleblower allegations in the future.”
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) report was conducted to evaluate an OIG investigation into whistleblower allegations of delayed care at Hines VA Hospital. As Durbin wrote today, the OSC report found that the “OIG investigation did not include any analysis of actual wait times, assessment of the impact of such delays on patient mental health care, recommendations for corrective action, nor accountability among Hines VA Hospital management and leadership.”
After writing to share concerns regarding allegations of improper and delayed care at Hines VA Hospital with the VA in 2013, Durbin and U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) wrote to Secretary McDonald again in November 2015 to request an update on the implementation of recommendations to improve the quality of cardiovascular care at the facility. In addition to information about specific quality improvement measures, Durbin and Duckworth also inquired about the OSC report that was released late last week specific to wait times and the OIG.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General does not currently have a permanent Inspector General. President Obama nominated Michael Missal to serve as the VA Inspector General in October 2015, and his nomination was approved by both the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in January. His nomination has yet to be considered for a vote on the Senate Floor.
The full text of today’s letter is available below.
February 29, 2016
Secretary Robert A. McDonald
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Secretary McDonald:
I am writing to express my concern about the findings in the recent U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) Analysis of Disclosure, Agency Report, and Whistleblower Comments at Edward Hines, Jr., Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in Hines, Illinois, File No. DI-14-2762, and to request information about the Department of Veterans Affairs plans for corrective measures.
Over the years, I have shared with your Department concerns regarding allegations of inappropriate cardiovascular care, long wait times, and other issues of improper care at the Hines VA Hospital. While I have appreciated your Department’s efforts to provide quality care for our veterans and uphold transparency and accountability, I remain deeply troubled about allegations of ongoing problems at Hines VA Hospital.
The OSC File No. DI-14-2762 reported on February 25, 2016, found that the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) 2015 investigation into whistleblower allegations of wait times and delays in veterans’ access to mental health care at Hines VA Hospital was insufficient. The OSC report further states that the OIG investigation did not include any analysis of actual wait times, assessment of the impact of such delays on patient mental health care, recommendations for corrective action, nor accountability among Hines VA Hospital management and leadership. In addition, the OIG refused to allow the OSC access to its complete investigation reports and appeared to focus on discrediting the whistleblower at Hines VA Hospital.
As such, I request your Department implement immediately corrective actions at Hines VA Hospital to address the concern of wait times and timely response to whistleblower allegations in the future. I also request a meeting with you in person to discuss recommendations for Hines VA Hospital as well as the troubling fact that Hines VA Hospital has not had a permanent Director since 2014.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
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