07/23/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/23/2021 15:35
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Boozman (R-AR), both members of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, introduced the bipartisan VA OIG Training Act of 2021 to require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide training to employees on reporting waste, fraud, and abuse. This training would be in coordination with the VA Office of the Inspector General (VA OIG), which serves veterans and the public by conducting meaningful independent oversight of the VA.
'VA employees must know to speak up if they see concerns with veterans' care or other waste, fraud, and abuse,' said Senator Hassan. 'This bipartisan bill will help ensure that VA employees are vigilant in order to protect the benefits and care that veterans have earned and deserve. Any wasted VA resource is one taken from a veteran, so I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass this important bill.'
'Our veterans deserve nothing short of high-quality care, and the Inspector General's Office plays an important role in helping ensure the VA is meeting its lawful obligations,' SenatorBoozman said. 'Our bill will help foster cooperation between VA employees and the Inspector General so that reporting wrongdoing is a process all employees are trained in. Protecting our former servicemembers from negligence or willful misconduct must be a top priority.'
'Effective oversight depends on VA employees reporting wrongdoing and cooperating fully with VA Office of Inspector General investigations, inspections, audits, and evaluations. Early and accurate reporting by VA staff can save patients' lives, protect VA employees, ensure veterans timely receive needed benefits and services, and recoup billions of dollars in monetary recoveries and avoided costs,' said VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal. 'This training will also advance the Secretary's commitment to holding employees accountable, protecting whistleblowers and other complainants, and ensuring all information is obtained that contributes to fair and balanced oversight.'
Currently, the VA offers an optional, 45-minute whistleblower training to employees. However, many VA employees opt out of the training, and often lack the skills to spot the early indicators of fraud and other potential crimes. This bill would make this one-time training mandatory, in order to reduce fraud and protect taxpayer dollars.
This legislation also allows the VA OIG to contact VA employees via email at least twice a year without having to seek permission from the VA Secretary, as currently is the case. This would allow the VA OIG to send an email to employees on National Whistleblower Day as well.
Senator Hassan is working across the aisle to strengthen veterans' care and increase oversight of the VA. Senator Hassan recently questioned VA officials, where she pressed a VA official on how he would work to change how the VA handles whistleblower claims following whistleblower allegations at the White River Junction VA Medical Center. Earlier this year, Senator Hassan urged the National Personnel Records Center, which maintains the personnel, health, and medical records of millions of veterans, to immediately use the $50 million included in the December COVID-19 relief and government funding package to address its backlog of veterans' record requests.