WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called for details from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General on its new efforts to improve oversight over major construction projects.
“The VA has dropped the ball on its construction projects too many times, endangering the health and safety of the veterans who depend on these facilities and wasting money that should be going to improve care,” McCaskill said. “I look forward to hearing from the VA Inspector General about its new construction oversight efforts and what the VA can do to help prevent this type of mismanagement in the future.”
In a letter to the VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal, McCaskill requested a briefing on the new construction oversight division the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) plans to launch and whether the OIG requires additional resources in order to conduct this oversight. “This focused oversight is clearly needed and would provide additional checks to ensure that taxpayer money is protected from fraud, waste, or abuse,” wrote McCaskill.
Earlier this year, after McCaskill called for an investigation into whistleblower complaints about the contractor working on construction at the Jefferson Barracks campus of the VA St. Louis Health Care System, the VA’s Inspector General vowed to closely track the VA’s remediation efforts. McCaskill has also called for answers on the VA’s efforts to cut down on fraud, waste, and abuse after a former contractor at the John Cochran Division of the VA St. Louis Health Care System pled guilty to a federal conspiracy charge of taking kickbacks worth nearly $270,000.
The daughter of a World War II veteran, McCaskill has a long history of standing up for veterans and protecting whistleblowers who identify waste, fraud, and abuse. 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). McCaskill has also previously introduced legislation that would require the firing of any Veterans Affairs employee found to have retaliated against a whistleblower. Last year, 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 VA Inspector General HERE.