Lawmakers Outraged By VA’s Delays in the Release of Critical Information.
As Congress returns from the long Summer vacation lawmakers are once again clashing with top leaders at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
As we mentioned in July and in August, relations between VA and the House of Representatives have reached an all-time low; and according to a flurry of press coverage about the worsening squabble it appears that the relations have now sunk even more.
Congress is clearly fed up with VA for its lack of transparency and unwillingness to cooperate by releasing reports and statistics about the agency’s performance. Washington Post journalist Steve Vogel reports that both Republicans and Democrats are incensed by the agency’s slow response for information and by the fact that Congress has more than 70 pending requests to VA, some more than a year old.
As Kevin Begos of The Associated Press notes, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC) called a special hearing last week to grill a top VA official about the problem and even threatened to cut funding if the situation doesn’t improve.
Both Republicans and Democrats join in rare attacks on VA. “Frustration has been brewing for months,” HVAC Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), told AP. Mike Michaud (D-ME), agreed, saying members “are frustrated and unhappy” with the VA’s handling of requests for records.
Harsh Words for Top VA Leaders
This frustration was exemplified by Mike Coffman (R-CO) who, according to a Military Times report, accused VA Assistant Secretary Joan M. Mooney last week of “engaging in a systematic cover-up” of problems at the department. Coffman added that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki would be “complicit” if Mooney still had her job following the hearing.
“I think you want us to believe that you’re just incredibly incompetent,” Coffman said. “You know, I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think you’re incompetent. I think you’re a very smart political operative.”
Coffman added, “If Shinseki keeps you on after this hearing then he is also complicit in that cover-up. You are not who you appear to be here today — this lovely idiot, this incompetent manager.”
Putting Veterans First
The rancor has never been so heated. Congress truly needs the information only VA can provide so that Congress can set spending, important policies, and conduct oversight. Unfortunately, while Congress and VA bicker too many of our Veterans still go without urgently needed healthcare and disability compensation.