Tester statement on VA investigation

Senator calls for Justice Department to step in, hold people accountable

(MISSOULA, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement calling for the U.S. Justice Department to immediately investigate incidents at the Department of Veterans Affairs in which veterans at the Phoenix VA medical center, and potentially other veterans medical facilities, were not placed on official waiting lists for care because local VA officials were manipulating the system to receive performance bonuses. The statement comes in the wake of a preliminary report by the VA’s independent Inspector General that found evidence veterans at the Phoenix VA medical center were kept on an unofficial waiting list that allowed official waiting lists to look better in performance reviews:

“Today’s report demands a response. The Justice Department must immediately launch an investigation of VA Healthcare nationwide. It is intolerable to game the system for personal gain, and anyone found guilty for such an offense should immediately be fired. Additionally, any bonuses awarded based on false performance reports should be returned to the Treasury. Finally, if current leadership is unwilling or unable to address the problems at the VA, we need to find leaders who can.

“Most veterans tell me that the care they get from the VA is very good, but that is of little comfort to folks who are kept out of the system due to poor management. Moving forward, we need to get to the bottom of this situation, develop a plan to fix the systemic scheduling problems at the VA and provide veterans the high-quality health care they earned.”

At a recent Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, Tester said that strong action is needed to make sure all veterans can access the care they earned.

Last week, Tester, also a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, supported a measure in the Fiscal Year 2015 veterans funding bill to increase funding for the VA’s Inspector General to conduct a nationwide investigation into allegations of improper scheduling practices and procedures at the VA. The bill also prohibits the payment of performance bonuses to VA medical directors and senior VA employees until the investigation is completed and reforms are made.