The Senate's top appropriators plan to provide resources for the Justice Department to investigate the health scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In a Friday letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and Vice Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., say that the Senate's Commerce-Justice-Science bill will include resources for such a probe.
The news from the appropriators came not long after President Barack Obama announced the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
The Appropriations Committee is scheduled to report the CJS bill out next week. Mikulski and Shelby also oversee the CJS subcommittee.
"This scandal has dragged on over a decade. We believe the Department of Justice should begin investigations right away," the senators said. "The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of Public Integrity, the United States Attorneys, and any other component within the Department should swiftly and definitively determine whether any current or former VA officials violated the law and bring any charges that might be appropriate."
On some level, the Justice Department appears to already be involved , since the VA inspector general's office has been in communication with the U.S. Attorney in Arizona.
The full text of the letter appears below:
Dear Attorney General Holder: We are deeply troubled by allegations that veterans may have suffered, or perhaps even died, due to lack of medical care as officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) kept patients languishing on secret waiting lists while maintaining false patient care records purporting to show that no such delays existed. Further, allegations that VA employees may have submitted such false records in order to justify their own receipt of performance bonuses suggest the possibility that deceit and mistreatment may also have been compounded by fraud. These problems have dragged on long enough. We request that the Department of Justice immediately begin appropriate criminal and civil investigations into allegations that the VA falsified patient records at one or more of the VA's 150 medical centers and 820 community outpatient clinics. While we understand that the Department may already be working with the Inspector General of the VA on this matter, as the Chairwoman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, we believe the Department has the investigatory expertise and resources needed to swiftly and definitively determine whether any current or former VA officials violated the law and, where appropriate, take action. This tragedy has gone on far too long. Our veterans deserve justice, not more delays.