POGO Rebuts the VA's OIG's Response to POGO's Testimony on June 3, 2015

Project On Government Oversight Response
to a Statement by the
Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General

July 1, 2015

 

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) would like to respond to a statement submitted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s June 3 hearing, “Watchdogs Needed: Top Government Investigator Positions Left Unfilled for Years.”

Several weeks after the hearing, the VA OIG submitted the statement raising concerns about it, and about POGO’s testimony in particular. The OIG takes exception to the written testimony of POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian, claiming that her testimony is “replete with inaccuracies and assertions supported, not by factual evidence, but by footnotes to media reporting.”[1] It is telling, however, that the OIG could provide almost no relevant or specific evidence to support its own claims or rebut POGO’s arguments. Its statement is largely a misguided attempt to dismiss the investigative work of Congress and the press, and to disparage allegations made by whistleblowers who have questioned the OIG’s independence. Ultimately, the statement demonstrates that OIG officials do not appreciate how their credibility and independence have been compromised by a vacancy at the top that has languished for more than 540 days.[2]

We would like to highlight in particular the following problems with the OIG’s statement:

The OIG mischaracterizes its subpoena of POGO

The OIG asserts that we “refused to provide the information” POGO had received last year related to allegations of manipulated wait time data at VA health facilities, “despite the fact that the OIG was conducting a VA-wide review on waiting times and issued a subpoena to POGO for the information.”[3]

This is a blatant mischaracterization of POGO’s position. When the VA IG’s office first contacted us asking for copies of the whistleblower complaints we received, we offered to share general trends gleaned from the tips, but expressed concern about providing information that could be used to identify any whistleblowers who contacted us, especially since so many had asked that their identities be protected. In a follow-up email, we said we would be “happy to talk to [the OIG] about what we are learning once we have [a] handle on the information that we have received,” but reiterated that our disclosure would “not include any information about [our] sources.”[4] An hour later, OIG employees showed up at POGO’s door with a subpoena in hand.

In addition, the OIG’s statement downplays the sheer absurdity of its subpoena. We strongly believe that the OIG’s subpoena violates the Constitution by infringing on POGO’s freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of association rights as they relate to our sources. Further, the subpoena could have had a chilling effect on whistleblowers who come to POGO as an outlet to expose government malfeasance.[5] In a letter to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), Chairman Johnson wrote that the OIG’s subpoena was “unnecessary, harassing, and potentially extralegal, or at the very least, highly inappropriate” given that POGO is a “nonpartisan good-government watchdog whose only goal was to assist veterans in improving the VA.”[6]

The OIG’s statement devalues whistleblowers and downplays substantive investigations conducted by Congress and the press

The OIG says that a 2014 letter from POGO to then-Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson offered nothing more than “a few unrelated and unverified stories of people who claimed retaliation.”[7] In addition, according to the OIG, without access to “VA personnel or records, especially medical records, POGO does not have the capability to evaluate the medical care and treatment provided veterans at VA facilities nor can they verify the stories related by complainants.”[8]

It will take a concerted effort by watchdogs both inside and outside of the government to right the ship at the VA. To be sure, POGO is not always in a position to access internal agency records or to evaluate individual claims of medical harm. However, after spending countless hours reviewing allegations brought by hundreds of VA whistleblowers—the most tips we’ve ever received on a single issue—we felt there was an urgent need to inform Department leaders about a “widespread climate of fear and whistleblower intimidation.”[9] Although we did receive tips from veterans who made individual claims of medical harm, other tips came from current and former VA employees who sought to expose systemic, long-term problems at the Department.

In at least several cases, we did name and provide on-the-record quotes by whistleblowers who chose to go public with their stories. Our investigative report on Army veteran Steven Massong was supported by thousands of pages of records, including internal VA documents, and hours of on-the-record interviews. (We provided a signed release from Massong authorizing the VA to answer POGO’s questions, but we received no response.[10]) In a letter to the VA, we published the results of our investigation into a complaint brought by Stuart Kallio, an inpatient technical supervisor at the Palo Alto VA Health Care System. Kallio agreed to go on the record with documents indicating that his superiors retaliated against him and attempted to silence him after he raised concerns about drug management and medication errors at the hospital. And we conducted an in-depth review of information provided by Thomas Tomasco, a doctor who worked at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center in Pennsylvania. Tomasco described how he faced a series of adverse actions after raising concerns that on-call physicians were literally “phoning it in”—providing consults by telephone rather than coming to the hospital in emergency situations.[11]

In other cases, we made a decision to publish the allegations and sentiments of whistleblowers who did not want to be named. We recognized in our letter that it was “impossible to look into their claims.”[12] However, despite the OIG’s assertion that our letter contained just a “few unrelated” stories, an alarming number of current and former VA employees who contacted us said they feared or had already experienced retaliation. POGO is hardly alone in raising concerns about a toxic climate for whistleblowers at the VA. “[I]t is clear that the workplace culture in many VA facilities is hostile to whistleblowers,” Carolyn Lerner, head of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), told Congress last year.[13] Then-Acting Secretary Gibson acknowledged that “we’ve created an environment where opinions of the rank-and-file, those that are doing the hard day-to-day work of caring for our veterans, are not only not listened to, they’re not tolerated.”[14]

We were pleased to see the Department act on one of our recommendations: getting certified by the OSC for taking steps to educate employees about their whistleblower rights and protections.[15] Although the OIG is not required to get certified, we reiterate our call for the office to take this important step in order to demonstrate its commitment to protecting whistleblowers from retaliation. We would also urge the OIG to spend less time issuing frivolous subpoenas to identify whistleblowers, and more time trying to understand why there is such widespread distrust of the OIG by whistleblowers—an office that is supposed to serve as a safe harbor for whistleblower complaints.

On a separate matter, the OIG says we offered “flimsy evidence of an unsupported statement from one person, a former VA employee who stated that the OIG is ‘not trusted by most employees and usually used in the VA as retaliation.’”[16] The OIG says the source of this quote was the subject of an OIG report that “found substantial wrongdoing by this same person, hardly an objective disinterested party.”[17]

We believe the OIG has its facts wrong. The OIG’s report found that Iris Cooper, a former Executive Director of the VA’s Office of Acquisition Operations, steered a contract to her friend’s company. The OIG also reported that Cooper and Wendy McCutcheon, a former Associate Executive Director at the VA’s Office of Acquisition Operations, “engaged in a lack of candor when interviewed by OIG Special Agents.”[18]

However, it appears neither of these former VA employees was the source of the quote in question. The quote was included in an investigative report issued by the Treasury Department IG’s Office, which conducted its own review at the request of Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.[19] POGO obtained the report and underlying exhibits through the Freedom of Information Act. Although the names of witnesses are redacted in the Treasury OIG’s report, the person who said the VA OIG “is not trusted by most employees” is identified as a former procurement analyst and customer advocate at the VA who joined the General Services Administration in December 2014.[20] Based on her listed title, it appears this witness was neither Cooper nor McCutcheon.

The OIG says it was “simply irresponsible” for POGO to rely on the Treasury OIG’s report without requesting further documentation.[21] But when officials from the Treasury Department and the Treasury IG’s office asked the VA OIG for supporting documentation, the VA OIG denied those requests, citing the Privacy Act and other laws, according to a letter from Treasury IG Eric Thorson.[22] As it stands, the existing record demonstrates that concerns about the OIG do not only come from the subject of a VA OIG investigation, as the OIG asserts.

Elsewhere in its statement, the OIG questions POGO’s reliance on oversight and investigative findings by congressional offices and the press.

We noted in our testimony that the OIG and Acting IG Richard Griffin came under congressional and media scrutiny last year in the midst of a scandal at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. A VA doctor, Sam Foote, had alleged that 40 veterans died while waiting for an appointment at a Phoenix VA facility. The OIG’s final report on this matter, issued in August 2014, recognized that “[i]nappropriate scheduling practices are a nationwide systemic problem.” With respect to Foote’s allegation, however, the OIG said it was “unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths of these veterans.”[23]

POGO’s testimony raised concerns that the OIG added its statement on Foote’s allegation only after Acting IG Griffin conferred with then-Acting Secretary Gibson. Yet, the OIG says our concerns were “based entirely on a quote attributed to the Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, published in the Washington Examiner”—Chairman Miller told the Examiner that the situation, at its worst, “indicates a relationship between VA and its inspector general that is too close for comfort”[24]—and that there is no evidence to support this statement “because it is simply not true.”[25]

What the OIG neglected to mention is that the Examiner and USA Today had obtained and posted a previously unreleased email between Griffin and Sloan that goes to the heart of Chairman Miller’s statement.[26] At a September 2014 hearing, Griffin testified that the new language on Foote’s allegation “was made by the OIG strictly on our own initiative. Neither the language nor the concept was suggested by anyone at VA to any of my people.”[27] However, the email released by the press paints a more complicated picture. After reviewing a draft version of the OIG’s report, Sloan—who cordially addressed the Acting IG as “Griff”—said he was “surprised to see no reference to the allegations of 40 deaths.”[28] After meeting in person, Griffin emailed back to confirm that language about the “mysterious” 40 deaths would be added to the report. “Thanks on all counts!” Sloan responded. “I appreciate the focus on the 40 deaths.”[29]

Chairman Miller wasn’t the only one who questioned the OIG’s final report. In addition to Foote—who called the report a “whitewash”[30]—another whistleblower from the Phoenix VA Health Care System, Katherine Mitchell, testified that the “OIG case review overlooked actual and potential causal relationships between health care delays and Veteran deaths.”[31] The OSC—a federal agency tasked with investigating allegations of whistleblower retaliation and serving as a safe channel for whistleblower disclosures—saw fit to honor Mitchell with a Public Servant of the Year award in December 2014 for disclosing “critical understaffing and inadequate training in the Phoenix VA medical center’s emergency room.”[32] However, the OIG’s statement says nothing about the concerns raised by whistleblowers such as Mitchell, and seeks to minimize numerous investigations by Congress and the press that raised legitimate questions about the independence of the Acting IG.

The OIG does not address its poor track record on transparency

The OIG says POGO made a “dubious reference” to a story by USA Today concerning 140 reports of healthcare inspections completed by the OIG since 2006 that had not been previously released to the public.[33] The OIG’s statement seems to suggest there is no cause for concern because, in the newly released reports of inspections that substantiated complaints of serious harm or death, the matter was “already appropriately addressed by VA.”[34] Furthermore, the OIG says POGO ignored the fact that “the number of administrative closures has been reported in the OIG’s Semiannual Reports to Congress since 2002.”[35]

It appears the OIG still does not understand the basic problem. Prior to instituting a new disclosure policy earlier this year—and only then in response to congressional and media scrutiny—the OIG had not publicly released the underlying inspection reports. Just because the VA had already responded to the OIG’s findings in some of these inspections does not eliminate the need for transparency. And providing an aggregate number of cases on a semiannual basis is no substitute for publicly releasing the full reports in a timely fashion. We recognize that these reports often contain highly sensitive personal and medical information, but the OIG could have made all legitimate and legally required redactions before releasing a public version.

What’s even more alarming is the OIG’s general attitude towards transparency and congressional oversight.

An OIG spokesperson told USA Today that, under the office’s previous policy (or lack thereof), a Member of Congress would have had to file a FOIA request in order to obtain reports of closed healthcare inspections.[36] At a meeting earlier this year, Maureen Regan, counselor to the VA Inspector General, apparently stated that the “VA OIG had no obligation to report to Congress outside of its semi-annual report,” according to a summary of the meeting provided in a letter from Chairman Johnson to Acting IG Griffin.[37] She added that the VA OIG “would need to seek the approval of the VA before producing certain material to the Committee.”[38] In response to Chairman Johnson’s letter, Griffin said his office is willing to accommodate the Committee’s request for records related to an OIG inspection, but only “to the extent possible if the Committee can justify the request.”[39] Incredibly, the OIG has cited the Inspector General Act to justify its position,[40] even though, as Chairman Johnson pointed out, the law explicitly states that nothing in the Act “shall be construed to authorize or permit the withholding of information from the Congress, or from any committee or subcommittee thereof.”[41]

We are not surprised that the Committee has now issued a subpoena seeking the OIG’s records.[42] Unfortunately, as we stated in our testimony, the OIG’s resistance to posting redacted public versions of reports is all too common among both acting and permanent IGs. POGO supports bipartisan legislation approved by the Committee that would require more public disclosure of OIG reports and work products.[43]

The OIG fails to appreciate the problems created by long-term vacancies

Throughout its statement, the OIG demonstrates a poor understanding of the concerns raised by POGO, the Committee, and others about the structural problems posed by long-term IG vacancies.

The OIG disputes our point that a “permanent IG who enjoys the protections of the Inspector General Act and related laws can devise a long-term strategy to address the most important and, at times, embarrassing problems that confront her agency.”[44] The OIG says this “line of reasoning ignores the fact that acting Inspectors General are career Federal employees entitled to due process under Title 5 of the United States Code.”[45] While Title 5 protects the rights of individual employees, the Inspector General Act contains unique provisions to bolster the independence and authority of IG offices headed by presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed officials. For instance, the Act stipulates that permanent IGs be appointed “without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability.”[46] Those provisions do not apply to an acting IG who is, by nature, designated to serve on a temporary basis, and who has not gone through the Senate confirmation process.

Furthermore, it appears the OIG misunderstood our basic point. A permanent leader is typically in a better position to make long-term decisions about an office’s hiring, resources, and strategy. Justice Department IG and CIGIE Chair Michael Horowitz echoed this point at the Committee’s hearing, noting that a “sustained absence of permanent leadership is not healthy for any office, particularly one entrusted with the important and challenging mission of an IG.”[47]

The OIG also takes exception with our argument that acting IGs “are more likely to favor short-term projects that do not rock the boat, essentially serving as a caretaker until a permanent IG takes over.”[48] The OIG says “POGO did not conduct any work to verify” this opinion, nor did we “identify the employees who made these statements.”[49]

In fact, POGO has conducted years’ worth of research on the independence of IG offices, and has testified to Congress several times on the problems posed by long-term vacancies.[50] Our 2008 report on Inspector General independence was based on a survey sent to all statutory IGs, including the VA IG.[51]

Our latest testimony included numerous examples uncovered by POGO and others of employees at IG offices who questioned the independence and aggressiveness of acting leaders. Ten employees at the Department of Homeland Security IG’s Office said that former Acting IG Charles Edwards “wanted to be nominated for a permanent IG position and that they had concerns that he threatened the independence of the OIG office,” according to a bipartisan report by a HSGAC subcommittee.[52] In another example, eight current and former auditors at the U.S. Agency for International Development IG’s Office alleged that, under the leadership of former Acting IG Michael Carroll, the office had removed critical findings from reports issued between 2011 and 2013.[53]

Several years ago, POGO obtained and posted an email that revealed cozy ties between Harold Geisel, then-Deputy IG of the State Department, and State’s Under Secretary for Management, Patrick Kennedy.[54] In a letter to President Obama, we noted that “[n]umerous State whistleblowers have come to POGO due to a perception within the Department that employees with knowledge of wrongdoing cannot go to the OIG because they believe it to be captured by management.”[55]

In addition, employees at the Department of Defense IG’s Office raised concerns that their superiors, including former Acting IG Lynne Halbrooks, were sitting on a finding that former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta disclosed classified information at a 2011 gathering attended by the filmmakers of Zero Dark Thirty.[56] Earlier this year, when POGO reported that Halbrooks directed her staff not to interview Panetta himself—at a time when she was auditioning for the role of permanent IG—an employee from the IG’s office said it was “very unusual not to interview the subject of a serious allegation.”[57]

The VA OIG also asserts that “[i]t is the work of the organization that renders an Office of Inspector General credible, not any single individual.”[58] To support its point, the OIG says that a review of its semiannual reports “will show significant arrests, convictions, audit and inspection reports, recoveries, and other monetary benefits that have not changed since the former Inspector General retired on December 31, 2013.”[59] In fact, the OIG claims it is “among the most prolific in the Inspector General community,” with “more than 1,900 reports—each of which was shared with the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee—and more than 70 appearances at congressional hearings in the last 6 years.”[60]

In raising concerns about OIG’s acting leadership, we did not mean to disparage the work of the entire office. For instance, we recognize that the OIG—under both acting and permanent leadership—has long raised concerns about problems with wait times in the VA’s healthcare system. Our testimony clearly states that “IG professional staffers often have no problem carrying on their day-to-day work under acting leadership,” and that “[s]ome IG offices conduct the same number of investigations and audits under both acting and permanent officials.”[61]

At the same time, we have argued that the quantity of investigations and audits is far less important than the quality of OIG oversight. As we testified, “[o]ne of our biggest concerns is that the Inspector General Act induces many OIGs to spend a significant amount of time chasing ‘small-window’ projects in order to boost their offices’ metrics in semiannual reports (SARs) to Congress”[62]—the very metrics the VA OIG touts in its statement.

Furthermore, CIGIE guidance states that the “IG and OIG staff must be free both in fact and appearance from personal, external, and organizational impairments to independence. The IG and OIG staff has a responsibility to maintain independence, so that opinions, conclusions, judgments, and recommendations will be impartial and will be viewed as impartial by knowledgeable third parties.”[63] It has become abundantly clear that the VA OIG and Acting IG Griffin do not appreciate how the office’s long-term vacancy has damaged its independence, both in fact and appearance.

The OIG’s latest statement should serve as further confirmation that the office is in need of a permanent, Senate-confirmed leader who truly understands the importance of IG independence, and can assure the public, VA employees, and veterans that there is an aggressive watchdog in place who will hold the VA accountable and address the systemic problems that have plagued the Department. POGO welcomes the news that Griffin will soon be retiring,[64] and we echo the call from Committee Members on both sides of the aisle who have urged the President to nominate a new IG for the position.[65]



[1] Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, statement regarding the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s hearing, “Watchdogs Needed: Top Government Oversight Investigators Left Unfilled for Years,” submitted on June 25, 2015, p. 3. (Hereinafter “VA OIG Statement”)

[2] Project On Government Oversight, “Where Are All the Watchdogs?

[3] VA OIG Statement, p. 3

[4] Email from Scott Amey, General Counsel, Project On Government Oversight, to Maureen Regan, Counselor to the Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs, May 30, 2014.

[5] Project On Government Oversight, “POGO’s Response to VA Inspector General’s Subpoena for Whistleblower Records,” June 9, 2014.

[6] Letter from Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to Michael E. Horowitz, Chair, Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, and Joseph F. Campbell, Chairman, Integrity Committee, Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity Efficiency, regarding VA OIG subpoena, June 11, 2015, pp. 1-2.

[7] VA OIG Statement, p. 3

[8] VA OIG Statement, p. 3

[9] Project On Government Oversight, “POGO Letter to VA Secretary About VA Employees’ Claims of Fear and Retaliation,” July 21, 2014.  (Hereinafter “POGO Letter to VA Secretary”)

[10] Project On Government Oversight, “System Failure: One Man’s Nightmarish Journey Through the Troubled VA,” October 6, 2014.

[11] POGO Letter to VA Secretary

[12] POGO Letter to VA Secretary

[13] Testimony of Carolyn Lerner, Special Counsel, Office of Special Counsel, before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs regarding “VA Whistleblowers: Exposing Inadequate Service Provided to Veterans and Ensuring Appropriate Accountability,” July 8, 2014.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[14] “VA chief pledges end to whistleblower retaliation,” The Seattle Times, July 22, 2014.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[15] Office of Special Counsel, “Agencies That Have Completed the 2302(c) Certification Program.”  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[16] VA OIG Statement, p. 4

[17] VA OIG Statement, p. 4

[18] Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Review of Allegations Regarding the Technical Acquisition Center’s Award of Sole-Source Contracts to Tridec for the Virtual Office of Acquisition, Report No. 12-02387-59, December 8, 2014, p. 1.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[19] Letter from Eric M. Thorson, Inspector General, Department of the Treasury, to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs regarding VA OIG investigation, March 11, 2015.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015) (Hereinafter “Thorson Letter”)

[20] Department of the Treasury, Office of Inspector General, Report of Investigation, March 12, 2015, pp. 6-7 (Hereinafter “Treasury OIG Report”)

[21] VA OIG Statement, p. 4

[22] Thorson Letter, p. 1

[23] Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Veterans Health Administration: Review of Alleged Patient Deaths, Patient Wait Times, and Scheduling Practices at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, Report No. 14-02603-267, August 26, 2014, p. ii.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[24] Mark Flatten, “VA inspector general was pressured to change report,” Washington Examiner, November 4, 2014.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[25] VA OIG Statement, p. 4

[26] Dennis Wagner, “E-mails: VA secretary sought changes in Phoenix report,” USA Today, October 31, 2014. (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[27] House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, hearing on “Scheduling Manipulation and Veteran Deaths in Phoenix: Examination of the OIG’s Final Report,” September 17, 2014.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[28] Email from Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, to Richard Griffin, Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs, regarding “Meeting Today and Phoenix,” August 4, 2014.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015) (Hereinafter “VA Email Correspondence”)

[29] VA Email Correspondence

[30] Testimony of Dr. Samuel Foote before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs regarding “Scheduling Manipulation and Veteran Deaths in Phoenix: Examination of the OIG’s Final Report,” September 17, 2014, p. 3.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[31] Testimony of Dr. Katherine L. Mitchell before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs regarding “Scheduling Manipulation and Veteran Deaths in Phoenix: Examination of the OIG’s Final Report,” September 17, 2014, p. 3.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[32] Office of Special Counsel, “OSC Honors Three VA Whistleblowers with ‘Public Servant of the Year’ Award,” December 3, 2014.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[33] VA OIG Statement, p. 4

[34] VA OIG Statement, p. 4

[35] VA OIG Statement, p. 4

[36] Donovan Slack, “Newly released VA reports include cases of veteran harm, death,” USA Today, April 29, 2015.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[37] Letter from Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to Richard J. Griffin, Deputy Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs, regarding request for records of VA OIG inspection, February 25, 2012, p. 2.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015) (Hereinafter “Johnson Letter”)

[38] Johnson Letter, p. 2

[39] Letter from Richard J. Griffin, Deputy Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs, to Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, regarding request for records of VA OIG inspection, February 27, 2015, p. 4.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015) (Hereinafter “Griffin Letter”)

[40] Griffin Letter, p. 3

[41] “Inspector General Act of 1978, As Amended,” Public Law 95-452, Section 5(e)(3).  (Downloaded July 1, 2015) (Hereinafter “Inspector General Act”)

[42] Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, “Chairman Johnson Subpoenas VA Inspector General for Tomah VA Medical Center Documents,” April 30, 2015.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[43] 114th Congress, “Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2015,” S. 579, introduced on February 26, 2015. Amendment to S. 579, introduced by Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.  And Amendment to S. 579, introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin.  (All downloaded July 1, 2015)

[44] VA OIG Statement, p. 5

[45] VA OIG Statement, p. 5

[46] Inspector General Act, Section 3(a)

[47] Testimony of Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General, Department of Justice, before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee regarding “Watchdogs Needed: Top Government Investigator Positions Left Unfilled for Years,” June 3, 2015, p. 2.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[48] VA OIG Statement, p. 5

[49] VA OIG Statement, p. 5

[50] Testimony of Jake Wiens, Investigator, Project On Government Oversight, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on “Where Are All the Watchdogs? Addressing Inspector General Vacancies,” May 10, 2012. 

[51] Project On Government Oversight, Inspectors General: Many Lack Essential Tools for Independence, February 26, 2008.

[52] Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, Investigation into Allegations of Misconduct by the Former Acting and Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, April 24, 2014, p. 2.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[53] Scott Higham and Steven Rich, “Whistleblowers say USAID’s IG removed critical details from public reports,” The Washington Post, October 22, 2014.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[54] Email from Harold Geisel, Deputy Inspector General, Department of State, to Patrick F. Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management, Department of State, regarding “Big Problems With Baghdad (With However A Good News PS),” August 22, 2008.

[55] Project On Government Oversight, “POGO Questions the Independence of the State Department’s Inspector General,” November 18, 2010.

[56] Project On Government Oversight, “Unreleased: Probe Finds CIA Honcho Disclosed Top Secret Info to Hollywood,” June 4, 2013.

[57] Project On Government Oversight, “Exclusive: New Documents in Zero Dark Thirty Affair Raise Questions of White House-Sanctioned Intelligence Leak and Inspector General Coverup,” April 16, 2015.

[58] VA OIG Statement, p. 5

[59] VA OIG Statement, p. 5

[60] VA OIG Statement, p. 5

[61] POGO Testimony

[62] POGO Testimony

[63] Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, Quality Standards for Federal Offices of Inspector General, August 2012, p. 10. (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

[64] Project On Government Oversight, “POGO Welcomes Leadership Change at VA Inspector General,” June 30, 2015.

[65] Senator Tammy Baldwin, “Bipartisan Group of Senators Call on President Obama to Take Action on VA Inspector General,” June 25, 2015.  (Downloaded July 1, 2015)

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