Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) last week asked new Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald if VA employees are required to give honest answers to members of Congress, after one of them apparently lied to him back in June.
“Does the department have a policy requiring employees to speak truthfully to members of Congress conducting oversight?” Meehan asked in an August 5 letter. “If so, what are the consequences of violations of this policy? If not, why not?”
The VA had not replied as of Monday.
Meehan sent his letter several weeks after he visited a VA clinic in Horsham, Pennsylvania, where he was told that employees did not purposefully manipulate veterans’ wait time data for health care services. Instead, he was told the Horsham facility was being looked at more closely because of a “simple clerical error.”
“I asked very specifically whether this investigation would find evidence of intentional wrongdoing: manipulated data, falsified statistics or secret waiting lists,” Meehan wrote. “VA officials looked me in the eye and assured me that no misconduct had occurred and that any delays in care were the result of simple bookkeeping errors.”
Meehan said it later became clear that those statements were untrue, after an audit found evidence of manipulated data and secret waiting lists. It also found that employees were “encouraged” to inaccurately enter data in order to “game” the system.
Aside from asking about the VA’s policies for dealing with members of Congress, Meehan asked what steps the VA would take to hold those officials accountable for their misleading statements. Among others, Meehan met with Philadelphia VA Director Daniel Hendee.
“[M]embers of Congress should be able to trust the word of federal officials they speak with while fulfilling their oversight duties,” Meehan wrote. “That trust has been broken. A culture of cover-ups appears to have taken over, and it must end.”
Meehan and Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) have both complained that VA officials lied to them directly about the status of VA clinics in their states.
Read Meehan’s letter to VA Secretary McDonald here: