GOP senator threatens to subpoena VA over ‘Candy Land’

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Trump UN pick donated to GOP members on Senate Foreign Relations panel Scott Walker considering running for Wisconsin governor or Senate: report MORE (R-Wis.) is threatening to subpoena the top watchdog at the Veterans Affairs Department for allegedly blocking his efforts to investigate one of its hospitals where painkiller prescriptions were given out “like candy.”

“The refusal of your office to comply fully and promptly with the committee's oversight needlessly narrows and delays the committee's examination of the tragedies that occurred,” Johnson, head of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote in a Feb. 25 letter to VA Inspector General Richard Griffin. 

Johnson is giving Griffin until 5 p.m. on Friday to turn over the findings of the department’s own years-long investigation into the VA hospital in Tomah, Wis. — where prescriptions saw a huge uptick even though the patient population dwindled — or face a subpoena.

A recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting found patients had nicknamed the medical center “Candy Land” because of the number of pain medications it gave out.

Johnson said the IG office’s noncooperation, particular by its chief counsel Maureen Regan, “is troubling.”

He said members of Griffin’s office originally said they would provide the file, only to later claim they need more time and then finally requested a meeting on the document.

At that meeting on Feb. 18, Regan said the file would not be turned over and suggested Griffin would need VA's approval before releasing other information, according to Johnson. 

"During this meeting, Ms. Regan refused to cooperate with the committee's oversight, questioning the committee's authority and even the committee's purpose for reviewing the work performed by the VA OIG,” he wrote.

"The inspector general should be a completely independent office, and the transparency is an incredibly important part of that," Johnson said.