August 13, 2021

Manchin, Tester, Boozman Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Strengthen VA Oversight For Veterans And Taxpayers

Senator Manchin’s legislation to provide VA watchdog with essential oversight tool to detect waste, fraud and abuse
Charleston, WV – This week, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Tester (D-MT) and John Boozman (R-AR) introduced the Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act of 2021 to strengthen oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for veterans and taxpayers.
This legislation would provide VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) the authority to subpoena testimony from former VA employees who have left federal service, former contractor personnel who performed work for the Department, or other potentially relevant individuals during the course of its inspections, reviews, and investigations. Under current law, VA OIG does not have testimonial subpoena authority to compel individuals relevant to investigations to answer questions in person and under oath. This can limit both VA OIG and Congress’ ability to conduct complete and thorough reviews, including of VA health care and benefits programs, management actions, and contracts.
“America’s Veterans have made great sacrifices to protect our nation; some have even made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. Now it is our duty to take care of them, which starts with ensuring accountability at the VA. Veterans in my home state of West Virginia have experienced the impacts of top-down VA leadership failures, which resulted in the tragic deaths of seven Veterans at the Clarksburg VA Medical Center. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) currently does not have testimonial subpoena powers, which resulted in the OIG having limited authority during the Clarksburg VAMC investigation. Our bipartisan legislation would address this glaring oversight by granting the OIG the proper authority to conduct thorough investigations and begin to rebuild the relationship between West Virginia Veterans and the VA,” said Senator Manchin
Earlier this year, VA OIG released a report investigating the tragic murders of seven Veterans at the VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Clarksburg. The VA OIG’s report noted that a lack of testimonial subpoena authority limited its ability to conduct a more thorough review of the incident.
Senator Manchin has been working tirelessly to hold the VA and leadership accountable for their failures to protect the Veterans receiving treatment at the Clarksburg VAMC, ensure transparency and make certain the horrific crimes that happened at Clarksburg never happen again. In March, Senator Manchin led a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing legislation that would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to submit to Congress a report on the use of security cameras in VA medical centers. In June, Senator Manchin introduced the bipartisan VA Provider Accountability Act to address the 2019 GAO Report which found the VA must take action to ensure its healthcare providers have the appropriate qualifications and clinical abilities to deliver safe, high quality care to Veterans. In August, Senator Manchin secured language in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs bill that orders a review of third-party accreditation providers, like The Joint Commission, to address the systemic failures in patient safety reporting at VAMCs, like Clarksburg.
 The Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act will:
·       Provide the VA Inspector General the authority to subpoena testimony from relevant individuals in the course of its investigations;
·       Require the VA Inspector General to notify the Attorney General (AG) of the United States if he/she intends to issue a subpoena, allowing the AG the opportunity to object to the issuance of the subpoena if it would interfere with an ongoing investigation;
·       Ensure the VA Inspector General makes clear that a witness can voluntarily cooperate with the Inspector General rather than be subpoenaed and to the greatest extent practicable, have the Inspector General travel to the location of a participating witness rather than making them travel far distances; and
·       Require the VA OIG to report to Congress regularly on the number of times they have used this new authority and other related topics.
Bill text can be found here.

To view a timeline of Senator Manchin’s efforts at the Clarksburg VAMC, click here.