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  • Senators To Obama: Please Finally Pick A Permanent Inspector General For The VA

    A group of 10 senators led by Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to President Barack Obama Thursday telling him to hurry up and appoint a permanent inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    The group argued tapping a permanent inspector general (IG) would help restore trust broken by the department.

    Richard Griffin accepted the position of acting IG about 18 months ago near the end of 2013, shortly after George Opfer left the department.

    Griffin has faced a long list of accusations during his tenure, including blatant cooperation with White House and VA officials who interfered with the report detailing manipulated appointment wait times in Phoenix. These officials included VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors. Griffin claimed the changes weren’t “directed,” but came as a result of “consultation,” and then proceeded to hold on to a draft report of the scandal. He also withheld a preliminary report on opioid overprescription at the Tomah VA facility, which enraged Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

    According to Griffin, there isn’t any real standard to rely on when deciding which reports to withhold and which to release. Instead, the decision occurs on a case-by-case basis.

    As of March 12, the White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said that he wasn’t aware of any plans to name a permanent VA IG.

    “I would say it’s my understanding that the administration profoundly respects and admires the work of inspector generals across the administration and throughout various agencies, whether they are Senate-confirmed or not,” Schultz added.

    The senators, however, argued an IG confirmed by Congress allows for far more accountability and transparency, and encourages the investigation of more long-term issues that might prove embarrassing for the VA.

    “It is imperative that you nominate a permanent IG for the VA to provide stable leadership and oversight of the agency,” the senators wrote. “Over the past two years, the VA has faced well-documented challenges, including the failure to provide timely health care nationwide. A permanent IG would help to address these failures and would play a critical role in auditing and evaluating VA programs, conducting health care inspections and investigating allegations of serious violations of policies and procedures by high-ranking members of the department.”

    The letter was signed by GOP Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Mike Enzi, Joni Ernst and Ron Johnson, as well as Democratic Sens. Cory Booker, Tom Carper, Claire McCaskil, Gary Peters and Jon Tester.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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