WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin regarding a recently uncovered kickback scheme at the John Cochran VA Center in St. Louis—and how the VA is taking action to prevent similar schemes around the country.
“Fraud with taxpayer dollars in always bad—but fraud that undermines the care given to our Missouri veterans is inexcusable,” said McCaskill, former Missouri State Auditor. “It appears that they went unidentified for so long because they’d found a loophole in the VA’s fraud prevention system—the open question is whether we’ve learned from this incident and have taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
A former Cochran employee pled guilty to a federal conspiracy charge of taking kickbacks worth nearly $270,000. He was able to do this by awarding contracts worth less than $2,500 each—the level at which he could individually award contracts without additional scrutiny. The VA subsequently announced their “Seek to Prevent Fraud, Waste and Abuse” initiative to cut down on waste and wrongdoing within the VA system. McCaskill’s letter to VA Secretary Shulkin seeks information on how this new initiative is performing and how it will take steps to stop similar kickback incidents in the future.
“The kickback also raises questions about whether or not the VA has established adequate safeguards in order to prevent similar acts from occurring in the future,” McCaskill’s letter reads.
McCaskill is a longtime advocate for ensuring Missouri veterans receive the healthcare and services they deserve. Last month, following pressure from McCaskill and her colleagues, the Trump Administration reversed course and exempted many VA jobs from the federal hiring freeze. McCaskill has also worked to resolve unpaid claims of six Theodosia-area veterans through the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans who don’t have convenient access to a VA facility to receive care at a local health care provider. Following advocacy from McCaskill and more than one-thousand rural veterans in Missouri, the Salem Veterans Clinic announced last year it would expand their hours of operation. After repeated urging from McCaskill, the VA last year finally announced the installation of a permanent medical director at the St. Louis VA—a position which had been vacant for years. In addition, McCaskill has helped lead efforts to address medical workforce shortages at the VA with the Delivering Opportunities for Care and Services for Veterans Act.
Read McCaskill’s letter to Shulkin HERE.