House VA chief's patience wears thin with agency head

House VA chief's patience wears thin with agency head
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The head of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is running out of patience with VA Secretary Robert McDonald.

On Friday, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) sent a strongly worded letter to McDonald after the former Procter & Gamble CEO fired off a missive of his own taking umbrage with the House panel weighing a subpoena for records from the VA’s Philadelphia regional office.

“This Committee exposed the Department’s delays-in-care scandal at an April 9, 2014, congressional hearing, setting in motion a sequence of events that essentially forced the resignation of your predecessor and led to you becoming Secretary,” Miller said, referring to former VA chief 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, who resigned over the controversy.


The House committee on Thursday voted without objection to issue the subpoena.

The vote took place a day after the head of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs issued a subpoena for documents related to an investigation into a VA hospital in Tomah, Wisc.

The flurry of documents is more evidence that the relationship between McDonald, who was tapped by President Obama to clean up the scandal-plagued agency, and Capitol Hill lawmakers has grown considerably rockier in the last few months.

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal Rising violent crime poses new challenge for White House MORE (R-Fla.), a 2016 GOP presidential nominee, have voiced frustration with McDonald for not doing enough to weed out incompetent employees in the wake of last year’s scandal over patient wait times.

Last month, the VA’s inspector general issued a scathing report that found the Philadelphia hub ignored thousands of veterans inquires and routinely mishandles benefits claims.

Still, the House committee wanted more details about the abuses that took place at the site, raising McDonald’s ire.

In his letter, he told Miller he was “confused by the need for a subpoena given that on multiple occasions, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has offered to make available the full, unredacted information you sought.

“Had the Committee staff agreed to certain reasonable privacy conditions, your staff would have seen all relevant and applicable files,” he added, pointing out that 9,000 pages of documents had been made available "with more to follow."

Miller laid the blame for the dust-up squarely at McDonald's feet.

“Contrary to the assertions in your letter, it is the VA’s actions to stonewall this Committee — actions that began long before your tenure as Secretary, and continue to occur today — which has eroded the confidence of Veterans and the American people in our ability to work together,” he wrote.

“I trust that through VA’s immediate cessation of its groundless efforts to withhold information, we can rebuild that confidence,” according to Miller.