Blunt, McCaskill slam 'shameful' VA crisis response


Missouri's senators on Monday chided the Veterans Affairs Department for the "shameful" handling of its healthcare crisis and the agency’s treatment of whistleblowers.

Speaking at a Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in St. Louis, Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Ernst, Fischer to square off for leadership post Facebook gives 500 pages of answers to lawmakers' data privacy questions MORE (R) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillNail manufacturing exec who voted for Trump blames him for layoffs, asks Democrat for help The American economy is stronger than ever six months after tax cuts The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Immigration drama grips Washington MORE (D) ripped the department, which has been steeped in controversy since a May report found an agency hospital in Phoenix kept 1,700 veterans off official patient lists.

That report was soon followed by a White House-mandated audit of the VA medical network finding that more 57,000 veterans had to wait at least three months to see a doctor.

“The numbers are shameful, the response has been shameful,” Blunt said, calling for veterans to have more access to private care.

“Competition may not be a bad thing at all” for the VA’ medical network, according to Blunt, who argued that the agency should be “really good at a few things” like treating post-traumatic stress disorder and prosthetics.
But, he said, the VA “probably isn’t the best place to get your heart stent … or your blood pressure checked.”
Earllier, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) took the agency to task for its treatment of whistleblowers.
She told the audience must “pull out all the stops so that a new day dawns at the VA where whistleblowers are protected, not punished.”
The Office of Special Counsel, which examines whistleblower claims across the federal government, is looking into 67 claims of retaliation by VA managers against employees who lodged complaints, including 25 filed since June 1, special counsel Carolyn Lerner recently told House lawmakers.
McCaskill has introduced legislation that calls for any employee found to be guilt of retaliation against a whistleblower to be fired.

“Well Harry Truman would say that’s like kissing your sister. It doesn’t work,” McCaskill told the audience. “They need to be gone and they need to be gone immediately.”
She predicted that the various investigations into the VA would uncover a level of “calcified middle management” responsible for the scandals plaguing the agency.