November 18, 2021

Manchin Urges Increased Oversight At VA Medical Centers During Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing

Video of Senator Manchin during Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing can be found here
Washington, DC – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC), questioned Chris Wilber, Counselor to the Inspector General at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and Brianna Ogilvie, Assistant Deputy Undersecretary for Policy and Oversight at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) during the SVAC committee hearing.
Senator Manchin has been working tirelessly to hold the VA and leadership accountable for their failures to protect the West Virginia Veterans receiving care at the Clarksburg VAMC, ensure transparency and make certain the horrific crimes that happened at the Clarksburg VAMC never happen again.
Senator Manchin said in part, “I want to say in the past two years, I've spent a good deal of time in front of this committee discussing horrific murders of the Veterans that took place at Clarksburg, VA and I think you all know about that. I'm proud of the work my colleagues, all of you and Mr. Chairman, have done in helping us fix the specific problems in Clarksburg VA that lead to those murders and help prevent them anywhere else in the country. I've worked to pass legislation to install security cameras, fix shortcomings and staff training and accountability standards and give the VA Office of Inspector General the authority needs to conduct the investigations. These are all important steps but I think there's so much more that we need to do.”
Since the sentencing, Senator Manchin has called on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to schedule a VA patient safety oversight hearing to identify solutions to help verify that all VA employees are meeting the proper patient safety standards.
“Mr. Wilbur, you know what we're talking about is a sobering look at the issues that the VA in your office investigates on a daily basis. The issues you spoke of with hiring practices and quality of care in North Carolina and Mississippi sound eerily similar to those we experienced in West Virginia. Unfortunately, that confirms my fears that the failures that led to the Veterans being murdered in West Virginia are indicative of systematic VA failures everywhere. So I would ask Chairman Tester, I've been working on scheduling a VA patient safety oversight hearing in the very near future. I would ask if you would help us set that up? There's some things I think that it can be brought to light that would help us very much as far as getting to the crux of what our problems would be,” Senator Manchin continued.
In August 2021, Senator Manchin introduced the Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act of 2021 which 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. In the OIG’s investigation into the Clarksburg murders they noted in their report, Care and Oversight Deficiencies Related to Multiple Homicides at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, that the lack of subpoena authority prevented them from interviewing a former VA employee who had been the Risk Manager at the time of the murders. The Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act of 2021 would fix this problem and ensure that going forward the OIG’s office has every tool at their disposal to fully investigate failures at the VA.
Senator Manchin said in part, “Miss Ogilvie, if you will, I introduced Senate Bill 2687, Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act of 2021 again with Chairman Tester and Senator Boozman to give the Office of Inspector General the authority to subpoena. So my question would be, what more can we do to hold to hold these employees responsible for failures that happened at the VA so the Veterans can build the trust back to the VA that we need? Is there more that we can be done? We're trying to get the information, but is there something more that we can do to give you all the ability and power that you need and to prevent this from ever happening?”
A video of Senator Manchin’s statement during the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee can be found here.

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