WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), released a statement following yesterday’s release of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Inspector General (IG) report on the results of an investigation of the Muskogee VA Health Care System. The VA IG conducted an investigation into the Muskogee system last year in conjunction with a third party, the Joint Commission. Inhofe held the VA IG’s nomination last year until the VA had committed to conduct investigations of Oklahoma’s VA hospitals in coordination with a third party.
Earlier this Congress Inhofe and U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced S. 1266, the Enhancing Veterans Care Act, which authorizes VA’s Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) directors and medical center directors to contract with outside entities to conduct investigations of their VA facilities. Inhofe is testifying today on this legislation in front of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“Our Oklahoma veterans have earned top-notch healthcare and it’s on us to ensure our vets have access to such care,” Inhofe said. “A December 2015 USA Today article demonstrated the severity of problems at our Muskogee VA facility, despite nine VA IG investigations into the facility during the six years prior. This appalling and unacceptable care led me to demand, among other things, this IG investigation. This report is a step in the right direction to identify and correct shortcomings in quality and access to care. While positive changes have already occurred as a result of this investigation, there is still much work to be done. This is why my legislation, S. 1266, the Enhancing Veterans Care Act, will continue to build on that success and give the VISN and medical center directors more authority to investigate and correct deficiencies across the VA health system. It is time for Oklahoma VA facilities to be held to the same standards as private hospitals and outside oversight is how we can achieve this.”
The Joint Commission will release their own report on the joint investigation into the Muskogee VA Health Care System. Both the VA IG and the Joint Commission will also release reports on the state of the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System, as requested by Inhofe.
- On June 23, President Trump signed S. 1094 the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law. Inhofe cosponsored this legislation. This bill contained portions of S. 2554, which Inhofe 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.
- 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, who was temporarily reassigned until the completion of VA’s review of VISN 19’s report. It also resulted in new VA Directors in the Muskogee and Oklahoma City VA facilities.