Inhofe, Lankford, Russell Statement on Oklahoma City VA IG Report

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rep. Steve Russell (OK-05) released a statement on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Inspector General (IG) report on the results of an investigation of the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System. This report is the result of a request made by Senators Inhofe and Lankford.

Earlier this Congress, Inhofe and U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced S. 1266, the Enhancing Veterans Care Act, which allows VA’s Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) directors and medical center directors to contract with outside entities to conduct investigations of their VA facilities.

“After a December 2015 USA Today article revealed severe problems at the Muskogee VA facility, I demanded, among other changes, an Inspector General report to identify and correct shortcomings in quality and access to care,” Inhofe said. “Today’s report is a step in the right direction and highlights the progress made after hiring Director Wade Vlosich, but we must do more to provide Oklahoma veterans with the quality of health care they deserve.  That starts by using outside oversight to hold VA facilities to the same standards as private hospitals and by giving the VISN and medical center directors more authority to correct problems across the VA system—fixes that we address in the Enhancing Veterans Care Act.”

“Today’s report highlights the serious problems that have existed for years at the OKC VA Health Care System,” said Lankford. “Our Veterans deserve world class care and there is no excuse for not providing appropriate care to our heroes. Since Director Wade Vlosich was hired last year as the new Director, the OKC VA has significantly improved care and service.  After meeting with the Director a few weeks ago to talk through their progress, I was encouraged by his team’s willingness to confront the issues and work hand-in-hand with the Inspector General. Director Vlosich and his team have already completed nine of the 24 recommendations and they are actively working to resolve the rest of the recommendations in the coming months. We all should support the work of Director Vlosich as he and his team continue to release staff that cannot get the job done and support hard working staff that have been trapped in a bad system for years. Our veterans deserve better care and more options for care.”

“One question our Oklahoma veterans have been asking for decades is, ‘Will the Oklahoma City VA hospital ever be fixed?’ The latest report seems to confirm that the answer is no,” Russell said.

Earlier this year, the VA IG released a report on the state of the Muskogee VA Health Care System, as requested by Inhofe. Read more here.

Background

  • On August 2, the Senate passed S. 114, extending the VA Choice program, sending it to the President for signature.
  • On July 11, Inhofe testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee in support of the S. 1266  Enhancing Veteran Care Act, which would allow VISN directors to contract with outside organization to conduct investigations into their clinics.
  • On July 10, the VA IG released a report following an investigation of the Muskogee VA that was done in conjunction with a third party, the Joint Commission. An investigation into Oklahoma’s VA clinics in conjunction with a third party was promised to Inhofe after he held the VA IG nominations on the Senate floor last year.  
  • On June 23, President Trump signed S. 1094 the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law. Inhofe cosponsored this legislation, which makes it easier for the Department to terminate underperforming employees. This bill contained portions of S. 2554, which Inhofe and Lankford introduced last Congress.
  • On Feb. 23, 2016, Inhofe announced on the Senate floor that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had committed in writing to conduct investigations of Oklahoma’s VA hospitals in coordination with an outside entity, a condition made by Inhofe prior to allowing confirmation of the VA Inspector General nominee.
  • On Feb. 12, 2016 Inhofe and Lankford introduced S. 2554, the Veterans Affairs Accountability Act, which would give authority to the Secretary of the VA to remove or demote a VA employee based on performance or misconduct. It would also give VISN directors the authority to contract with outside organizations to conduct investigations into their clinics.
  • In January 2016, Inhofe requested that the VA IG visit Oklahoma VA facilities with an outside entity. This request was denied.
  • On Dec. 23, 2015, Inhofe contacted VISN 19 Network Director Ralph Gigliotti and requested his personal assistance in ensuring proper care is provided to the five veterans identified in the Dec. 23, 2015, USA Today article. Inhofe continues to work with the VA on care for these veterans to include addressing existing medical issues and any future medical issues.
  • On Nov. 30, 2015, VISN 19 sent two teams to investigate operations at the Muskogee VA center, one that looked at quality of care and the other that looked at management of the facility. Their visits resulted in the immediate shut down of intermediate surgeries at the Muskogee facility due to issues that were discovered. It also prompted the removal of the facility’s Chief of Staff on Feb. 9, 2016, who was temporarily reassigned until the completion of VA’s review of VISN 19’s report. It also resulted in the appointment of new VA Directors in the Muskogee and Oklahoma City VA facilities.