Congress Subpoenas VA Records for Philadelphia Office Investigations

These photos from the VA Office of Inspector General report detail the dingy conditions of the VA Regional Office space in Philadelphia. (VA OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL)
These photos from the VA Office of Inspector General report detail the dingy conditions of the VA Regional Office space in Philadelphia. (VA OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL)

The House Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday issued a subpoena for the Veterans Affairs Department to release thousands of pages related to completed and ongoing investigations into complaints filed against the VA's Philadelphia regional office by employees.

Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, said the subpoena for records on complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Merit System Protections Board was spurred by the panel's frustration with the VA failing to comply with requests for documents dating back to December.

"There are serious issues plaguing the Philadelphia RO [regional office]," he said. "We can no longer let the VA stonewall" on providing the information. Miller said documents the committee has received have been so heavily redacted that they provide little or no information.

"There is a growing list of examples of the VA attempting to impede our congressional oversight and limit their transparency," said Miller, who is now seeking records going back to December 2008.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald quickly responded to the committee's vote to subpoena VA records with a letter to Miller, pointing out that the department already has provided "nearly 9,000 pages of material ... with more to follow."

McDonald also noted in his letter, portions of which were provided to Military.com, that "on multiple occasions, [the VA] has offered to make available the full, un-redacted information you sought."

"Had the committee staff agreed to certain reasonable privacy conditions, your staff would have seen all relevant and applicable files ... I reiterate what I have said to you directly in the past -- the Department is committed to providing these files."

Just last month the VA's Office of the Inspector General revealed it had uncovered a series of problems with the Philadelphia office. Although the IG said it found problems with other department regional offices, Philadelphia ranked the worst.

The IG concluded the Philadelphia regional office -- in its efforts to conceal the scope of its backlog of claims and appointments neglected mail -- manipulated dates of claims, altered quality reviews and made $2.2 million in duplicate benefits, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Allison Hickey, the VA's undersecretary for benefits, said the top manager and employee who altered the quality reviews have been reassigned pending an internal review that should be wrapped up in June, AP reported.

Miller said the Thursday's action was only the third time the veterans' affairs committee has issued a subpoena for records.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com

Show Full Article