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Mississippi and Veterans: The Call for the Dept. of Justice to Get Involved

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Chris Davis

WASHINGTON, D.C.–After years of complaints and after weeks of discovering just how bad the problem is across the country, there are now hearings underway in the U.S. House on how veterans are being treated by the Veterans Administration.

Just as familiar voices, like Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who visited Mississippi’s facilities last month, are speaking up and demanding answers in the House, on the Senate side there’s a call for U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and the Dept. of Justice to get involved.

There’s a Mississippi name on a list of 20 Senators demanding action. Roger Wicker joined both Republicans and Democrats Monday, asking for the DOJ to investigate possible criminal wrong-doing.

“The gross mistreatment of many of our nation’s veterans is inexcusable,” said Wicker. “This situation demands the full attention of the Attorney General and the Justice Department. Those responsible must be held accountable.”

The letter sent by the Senators states, “Evidence of secret waiting times, falsification of records, destruction of documents, and other potential criminal wrongdoing has appalled and angered the nation, and imperiled trust and confidence in the Veterans Health Administration.

“In honor of the service and sacrifice of our courageous patriots, we should recognize and reaffirm our commitment to the best possible healthcare this nation can provide to all veterans. We must also hold accountable anyone who has denied this care and thereby put our veterans’ lives in danger.”

Signers of the letter include Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., John McCain, R-Ariz, Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Joe Manchin III, D-W.V., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., Tom Coburn, R-Okla.,  John E. Walsh, D-Mont., John Barrasso, R-Wy., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Dan Coats, R-Ind., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Kay Hagan, D-N.C.

 

Full text of the letter:

 

June 5, 2014

 

The Honorable Eric J. Holder, Jr.

United States Attorney General

Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC  20530-0001

 

Dear Attorney General Holder,

 

The interim report released on May 28, 2014, by the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General Richard Griffin confirms the potential scope and severity of serious misconduct in Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities. The sheer number of facilities apparently involved – more than 42 are now under review – calls for immediate and significant involvement by the Department of Justice. Evidence of secret waiting times, falsification of records, destruction of documents, and other potential criminal wrongdoing has appalled and angered the nation, and imperiled trust and confidence in the Veterans Health Administration.

 

Although the VA Inspector General commendably has consulted with the Department of Justice, we urge that federal investigators and attorneys assume a leadership role to assure that anyone responsible for abuses is held accountable through criminal prosecution.

 

While we commend and appreciate the IG’s pursuit of his inquiry, an effective and prompt criminal investigation must inevitably involve the resources of the Department of Justice, including the FBI. The spreading and growing scale of apparent criminal wrongdoing is fast outpacing the criminal investigative resources of the IG, and the revelations in the interim report only highlight the urgency of involvement by the Department of Justice. There is a need for prompt results from the IG – not by August, as the IG has publicly said, but within the next few weeks. This challenge requires resources that only the Department of Justice can provide in developing and assessing evidence, pursuing leads, and initiating active prosecutions aggressively if warranted.

 

Lack of prompt, effective, and independent investigation may further undermine trust and confidence by veterans, and dissuade them from seeking necessary care. Indeed, leaving significant issues unresolved for too long – regardless of the outcome of the investigation – would itself be harmful to public trust in this important institution.

 

In honor of the service and sacrifice of our courageous patriots, we should recognize and reaffirm our commitment to the best possible healthcare this nation can provide to all veterans. We must also hold accountable anyone who has denied this care and thereby put our veterans’ lives in danger. Your leadership in investigating and prosecuting any wrongdoing will help restore faith in the VA medical care system – in the face of systemic failures – and help correct shortcomings that have outraged and astonished Americans. We look forward to continued cooperation between the DOJ and the VA in pursuing this common goal: keeping faith with our veterans.

 

Sincerely,

 

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL

United States Senate

 

JOHN MCCAIN

United States Senate

 

MARY L. LANDRIEU

United States Senate

 

JAMES M. INHOFE

United States Senate

 

TOM UDALL

United States Senate

 

MARCO RUBIO

United States Senate

 

JOE MANCHIN III

United States Senate

 

JEFF FLAKE

United States Senate

 

RICHARD J. DURBIN

United States Senate

 

TOM A. COBURN

United States Senate

 

JOHN WALSH

United States Senate

 

JOHN BARRASSO

United States Senate

 

SHELDON WHITEHOUSE

United States Senate

 

ROGER F. WICKER

United States Senate

 

JON TESTER

United States Senate

 

DAN COATS

United States Senate

 

MARK PRYOR

United States Senate

 

RICHARD BURR

United States Senate

 

AMY KLOBUCHAR

United States Senate

 

JOHN CORNYN

United States Senate

 

KAY HAGAN

United States Senate

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