Chairman Jeff Miller and Ranking Member Mike Michaud launched Trials in Transparency, a new web component of Veterans.House.Gov designed to highlight one of the committee’s top oversight challenges: getting timely information from Department of Veterans Affairs officials.
Trials in Transparency will keep a running record of outstanding information requests made to VA by both Democrat and Republican members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
VA is currently sitting on nearly 100 requests for information made by the Committee, some dating back more than a year. The leisurely pace with which VA is returning requests – and in some cases not returning them – is a major impediment to the basic oversight responsibilities of the Committee.
VA’s unanswered questions have created mounting frustration for Committee members, and prompted Chairman Miller to take the unprecedented step of writing weekly letters to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki listing the number of outstanding information requests and asking for “accurate information in satisfaction of these requests.”
“VA owes it to America’s veterans and America’s taxpayers to engage in an honest conversation about its past mistakes, the future challenges it faces and its capabilities for overcoming those challenges. Giving Congress timely access to the information it requests is an important part of that conversation. When the department drags its feet in providing information requested by Congress, it inhibits our ability to ensure America’s veterans are receiving the care and benefits they have earned. Our veterans deserve a VA that sets the standard for openness, honesty and transparency. When the department fails to do so, they must answer for that failure. – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
“Congress is committed to working with VA in an open and transparent manner. Our partnership, however, is contingent upon the department’s timely response to our requests for information – something that rarely occurs. I hope VA leadership will work to reverse this trend of unresponsiveness. Ultimately, all parties involved are working toward the same goal: providing the highest standard of care possible for our veterans. A completely open, honest and transparent conversation between VA and Congress is vital to that mission.” – Rep. Mike Michaud, Ranking Member, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Notable Outstanding Info Requests:
•July 10, 2012: Request for data on VA mental health hiring practices
•September 20, 2012: Request for info on VA conference spending practices
•January 2013: Request for all VA documents and emails from 2007- present regarding legionella bacteria or Legionnaires’ disease within the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
•February 19, 2013: Request for a list of performance standards VA providers are required to meet when providing mental health care
•June 13, 2013: Request for clarification regarding the breach of VA’s computer network
Quick Facts as of July 8, 2013:
Number of Outstanding Requests: 95
Three Oldest Outstanding Requests: June 5, 2012; July 10, 2012; and July 23, 2012
Requests Pending since 2012: 12