Senators push Obama to nominate VA watchdog
© Getty Images

A group of senators are pushing President Obama to nominate an inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), saying the post must be filled after not having permanent occupant for more than 600 days.

"This position is necessary to establish proper oversight and accountability at VA, as well as to start rebuilding the lack of confidence too many Americans have in the Department," Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' MORE (R-Ariz.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePoll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat  Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Sununu seen as top recruit in GOP bid to reclaim Senate MORE (R-N.H.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGiuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri McCaskill shares new July 4 family tradition: Watching Capitol riot video Joe Manchin's secret MORE (D-Mo.) wrote in a letter sent to Obama on Wednesday. "We urge you to ensure that oversight of VA is prioritized by nominating a permanent IG as soon as possible."
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The department's last permanent inspector general, George Opfer, stepped down at the end of 2013, while acting inspector general Richard Griffin retired in July.
 
The lack of a Senate-approved inspector general comes as the VA has been rocked by repeated data manipulation scandals over the past two years. That culminated last year when then-Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric Ken ShinsekiWhy aren't more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Biden's Cabinet? Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency Biden nominee: VA staff hampered by 'mismanagement' MORE resigned, though questions about systemic problems continue to plague the department. 
 
The senators pointed to a recent report finding that 307,000 veterans died while waiting to enroll in VA healthcare, saying it highlighted "diisturbing failures" within the VA.
 
The inspector general report couldn't determine how many of the veterans died because the VA "lacked adequate procedures and management oversight," but the senators said the "departmental shortcomings highlighted by these findings are shocking and inexcusable."
 
It isn't the first the VA Office of Inspector General has been the subject of congressional criticism. Lawmakers accused Griffin of being too close to the department he was supposed to investigate. 
 
Administration officials told Military Times in July that they planned to nominate an inspector general. The senators said Wednesday that the administration has received nominations on a VA inspector general from the council responsible for making recommendations. 

Linda Halliday is currently serving as deputy inspector general, but the senators said that a permanent official is needed. 

"This lack of leadership and oversight has contributed to VA’s consistently failing to deliver on our promises to veterans," they added. "A permanent watchdog is needed to conduct thorough oversight and correct this troubling pattern of behavior."