WASHINGTON - Following a recent report that identified a lack of security oversight from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at its medical centers across the country, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is calling for details from the VA about what it is doing to work with medical centers in order to ensure the safety of their staff and the veterans they serve. As part of her inquiry, McCaskill requested information on security risk assessments at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, VA St. Louis Health Care System, and the Kansas City VA Medical Center.
“Improving standards of care for our servicemembers has long been a top priority of mine, and the physical security of VA medical centers and our veterans is critically important,” McCaskill said. “I look forward on getting details on new steps the VA will take to identify and shore up security gaps at its facilities in Missouri and across the country.”
A recent Government Accountability Office report stated that “[VA] facilities have been the target of violence, threats, and other security-related incidents” and found that the VA was not doing enough to identify and address security risks at its medical centers across the country. McCaskill is seeking details on the steps the VA plans to take in order to improve its oversight in this space. “VA medical centers provide critical care to veterans in Missouri and across the country, both in big cities and small towns,” McCaskill wrote to VA Secretary David Shulkin. “It is essential that facility security resources are being applied appropriately and based on the particular needs of the communities in which they serve.”
One issue identified in the report was that the VA does not appropriately review risk assessments prepared by local VA facilities or ensure that recommendations for improving security are implemented. McCaskill requested information from the VA on when risk assessments were last completed for Missouri’s VA medical centers, if they were reviewed by relevant VA officials, and how the VA will include local and regional officials as it improves its oversight.
The daughter of a World War II veteran, McCaskill has a long history of standing up for veterans. She is 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 the Department of Veterans Affairs HERE.