Ernst questions VA inspector general nominee on oversight, accountability

The nominees for inspector general of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and special counsel of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) were pressed by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) at a Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee last week on the critical importance of timely oversight, accountability and protection for whistleblowers within the VA.

“[A]s we have seen all too many times in the past that there has not been the follow-up necessary, and those months delay could mean another veteran that has been left untreated or another veteran that takes their own life because of the lack of care provided by the VA,” Ernst said. “So we do have to be vigilant in this oversight and it quite literally is a matter of life and death.

“I was a little appalled to learn during this committee’s hearing last September that the VA OIG investigates only a fraction of the approximately 40,000 complaints — 40,000 — that it gets annually, and I understand that both the VA OIG and the OSC are resource-constrained, but a top priority of both organizations should be ensuring that not one of these VA whistleblower complaints goes unresolved.”

In June, Ernst brought attention to the continued vacancy of the VA inspector general position and its impact during a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.

“I do have the responsibility to ensure that those veterans are receiving adequate care… but the only way we can do this is to have efficient and motivated IGs and especially one in the VA that can be held accountable,” Ernst said.

Ernst has also sent multiple letters to President Barack Obama calling for an immediate nomination of a permanent VA inspector general amid continuing reports of mismanagement at the VA.

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