Tester Fights to Protect VA Watchdog

Senator Includes Amendment to 2019 VA Funding Bill in Response to VA’s “Alarming Disservice to American Veterans and Taxpayers”

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today fought to protect the mission of the VA Inspector General, the independent watchdog tasked with investigating misconduct and waste of taxpayer dollars at the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Tester successfully added a bipartisan amendment to the 2019 VA funding bill to ensure the VA Inspector General (IG) can investigate, audit, and conduct oversight of the nation’s largest health care system without being hindered by political delays, non-cooperation and stall tactics by the VA. Tester’s amendment comes after VA leaders recently refused to comply with the IG’s request for information.

“The total lack of cooperation from the VA is alarming and a disservice to American veterans and taxpayers,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “The VA must immediately comply with the IG’s request for access to information. The VA leadership that prides itself on transparency is not above the law or exempt from independent oversight. The Department must be held accountable to veterans and must stop this reckless behavior.”

Cosponsors of Tester’s amendment include Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Angus King (I-Maine), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Doug Jones (D-Ala.).

The Senate approved Tester’s amendment with a vote of 96-0. It reads as follows:

(a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to deny an Inspector General funded under this Act timely access to any records, documents, or other materials available to the department or agency over which that Inspector General has responsibilities under the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.), or to prevent or impede that Inspector General’s access to such records, documents, or other materials, under any provision of law, except a provision of law that expressly refers to the Inspector General and expressly limits the Inspector General’s right of access.

(b) A department or agency covered by this section shall provide its Inspector General with access to all such records, documents, and other materials in a timely manner.

(c) Each Inspector General shall ensure compliance with statutory limitations on disclosure relevant to the information provided by the establishment over which that Inspector General has responsibilities under the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.).

(d) Each Inspector General covered by this section shall report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate within 5 calendar days any failures to comply with this requirement.