(U.S. Senate) – Chairman Jon Tester led a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing today to evaluate the quality of veterans’ health care within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and in the community, where he pressed Assistant Under Secretary for Health for Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks Dr. Carolyn Clancy on VA’s steps to prevent veteran abuse and employee misconduct at facilities across the country.
“Many IG recommendations could be applied across VA to ensure similar problems don’t occur at other facilities,” Tester said to Dr. Clancy. “Does VA review IG reports and look for ways to prevent potential problems across the system?”
“We do indeed,” replied Clancy. “…We have long-had daily meetings about what’s happening and what are we hearing from the field—but this was more of a headquarters activity. During the pandemic, this became the glue that held the system together. And it has had a fundamental impact on our high reliability journey, as well as our ability to provide care to veterans during the pandemic, because it became a matter of sharing equipment and people as we needed. But that also became the place to say, we’ve had a problem here, and people ask questions—that’s a new thing.”
VA also assured Tester that they are reporting on quality measures required under the VA MISSION Act to ensure veterans can make informed decisions about their health care options. VA publishes these metrics on their Access to Care website, which often indicates that VA provides care of either the same or higher quality than care provided in the community.
During the second panel, Tester questioned VA Inspector General Michael Missal on the Department’s role in implementing VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) recommendations across its health care system. Missal stressed the critical need for VA to broaden awareness of the OIG’s recommendations.
Tester is leading the push in Congress to ensure the VA OIG has the critical tools to detect waste, fraud, and abuse with essential subpoena testimony authority during the course of its inspections, reviews, and investigations through his bipartisan Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act. Last September, the Chairman also led a bipartisan call to VA Secretary McDonough, urging the Department to address oversight failures at VA medical facilities nationwide.