WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is calling for answers after a recent report found that approximately 6,200 active employees at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities have not started the required background check process. At some facilities, the average time it took VA to start a background check was 390 days.
“It’s concerning that medical staff could be working on site at a Missouri VA facility for more than a year before their background checks have even started,” McCaskill said. “The vast majority of VA employees are doing great work taking care of our veterans—but it’s important that the VA uses all the tools at its disposal to ensure that unsuitable employees don’t slip through the cracks. Missouri veterans deserve to be safe when they enter the doors of a VA facility, and the agency’s delays in completing background checks put our veterans at unnecessary risk.”
The VA’s Inspector General recently examined the agency’s process for adjudicating background checks—which are required for every new employee at VA medical facilities. The report found that the VA had not started background checks for approximately 6,200 active employees at VA medical facilities, and that on average employees could be working at some VA facilities for more than a year before their background investigations were started. In a letter to the VA, McCaskill requested a full breakdown of Missouri VA facilities’ employees that lack a completed background check. She also asked for details on what the VA is going to do to cut down on its background checks backlog.
The daughter of a World War II veteran, McCaskill has a long history of standing up for Missouri veterans. Last month, McCaskill launched a resource for Missouri veterans targeted by home loan scams. In February, she called for answers over what the VA is doing to ensure Missouri veterans receive proper eye care and called for details about what the VA is doing to ensure better security oversight at VA facilities in Columbia, Poplar Bluff, St. Louis, and Kansas City. McCaskill is currently seeking answers from the VA after a report finding that thousands of servicemembers with PTSD or other mental health conditions who received “other than honorable” discharges were potentially barred from receiving mental healthcare and other benefits. Following issues with construction at VA facilities in Missouri, McCaskill called for answers on what the agency’s Inspector General is doing to improve oversight over major construction projects.
Aiming to continue improvements to the quality of customer service at statewide VA facilities, McCaskill created a “secret-shopper program,” the Veterans’ Customer Satisfaction Program, which allows veterans to share timely, confidential feedback about their VA health care visits, and helps provide oversight and accountability for VA health care facilities. The program is now active in five regions: St. Louis; Kansas City; Columbia; Poplar Bluff; Southwest Missouri (Fayetteville). In 2016, following advocacy from McCaskill and more than one-thousand rural veterans in Missouri, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it would expand the hours of operation at the Salem Veterans Clinic to be open Monday through Friday.
Read McCaskill’s letter to VA Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie HERE.