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POGO Welcomes Leadership Change at VA Inspector General

Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington DC
Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC (Photo: nevermindtheend / Flickr)

Richard Griffin’s decision to step down from his leadership role at the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs is welcome news.

The VA’s Office of Inspector General is in desperate need of new leadership—the kind of aggressive and independent oversight sorely lacking under Griffin’s tenure. As a group of VA whistleblowers pointed out this week in calling for his firing, Mr. Griffin has long been part of the problem and not the solution at the embattled agency.

Former Acting VA Inspector General Richard J. Griffin

Instead of being a champion of whistleblowers, Griffin was part of the VA’s toxic culture of intimidation and retaliation. When whistleblowers are fearful approaching their IG with information, there is a serious problem.

Among some of the lowlights of Griffin’s tenure:

  • In May 2014, the OIG issued a subpoena to POGO seeking information on whistleblowers who spoke to us about problems at the VA. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the subpoena was "unnecessary, harassing, and potentially extralegal," and requested an investigation by the federal council of IGs.

  • In August 2014, after Griffin conferred with the VA's then-Acting Secretary, the OIG issued a final report undermining the claims of a whistleblower who made allegations of phony wait lists and patient deaths at the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

  • In the past few months, Griffin and his aides have refused to provide the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee with records from the OIG's inspection of the Tomah VA Medical Center, forcing the Committee to issue a bipartisan subpoena.

As I said during my testimony before a Senate panel earlier this month, there are inherent problems with allowing temporary IGs, such as Griffin, to lead an office for an extended period of time. Hopefully, Griffin’s departure will underscore the long-overdue need for President Obama to appoint a permanent Inspector General who can help fix this agency’s serious failings—the health and welfare of our veterans are in the balance.

By: Danielle Brian
Executive Director, POGO

danielle brian Ms. Brian's areas of expertise include: National Security, Government Oversight, Wasteful Defense Spending, Ethics, Open Government, Whistleblower Issues

Topics: Government Accountability, Whistleblower Protections

Related Content: Veterans Affairs, Inspector General Oversight

Authors: Danielle Brian

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