WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today announced that he has placed a hold on the nominee for the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Michael Missal, until the department commits to investigating the Muskogee and Oklahoma City VA medical centers with the oversight of and in partnership with an outside private entity, such as the Joint Commission.
“It’s time for heads to roll for the lack of progress that Oklahoma’s VA medical facilities have made since Congress passed a sweeping VA reform bill in 2014,” said Inhofe. “From the hundreds of cases my office has resolved and the private meetings we’ve had with VA medical staff recently, it is clear that Oklahoma’s VA centers have continued business as usual and are failing to improve care for our veterans. It is time for these centers to undergo thorough investigations. I have asked the VA’s Office of Inspector General (IG) to do investigations before and am not pleased with their paltry findings that have failed to bring about change. This is why I am putting a hold on the new IG nominee until a commitment is made to me, and to Oklahomans, that the department will conduct new investigations but with the oversight and partnership of an outside agency that can hold our VA medical centers to the same standards as private hospitals. The department must commit to me a timeline for these investigations and it must include unannounced visits to the centers and for a thorough examination of the wait time for appointments, accuracy in medical diagnoses, quality of care and after-care, judicious use of private medical care and work environment in the hospital.
“Over the past several years, I worked to fix the poor care and management at the Muskogee VA center, which has included investigations by Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 16 and the VA IG. At my request, VISN 19 sent two teams in November to inspect operations at the center, which resulted in the immediate shut down of intermediate surgeries at the facility due to alarming practices that were uncovered. The center has begun to take corrective actions to include realigning and removing personnel. It is also time for the Oklahoma City VA center to have a wakeup call. When five veterans came forward to the press in December about the lack of quality care they were receiving at the OKC center, I immediately requested VISN 19 Director Ralph Gigliotti’s assistance in helping these gentlemen and also in looking into the overall operations of the medical center. I will be meeting with VA Sec. Robert McDonald soon on VISN 19’s findings and to discuss next steps not only for the center but for all of our Oklahoma VA facilities.”
“I will continue to push for thorough reviews and timely solutions. We need to bring about the type of change that will attract quality leadership and medical professionals to our VA facilities in Oklahoma. I am also committed to restoring veterans’ confidence so that when they walk into an Oklahoma VA medical center, they know they will be getting the quality, timely care that they have earned and deserve.”
The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies private and veterans hospitals across the nation.
VISN 19 Rocky Mountain Network oversees the operations of VA healthcare systems across 10 states, to include Oklahoma.
On Nov. 30, 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. Secretary McDonald is expected to brief Inhofe on the results of these inspections in the next few weeks.
On Dec. 22, 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 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.