Chairman Johnson Marks One Year Since Tomah VA Tragedies Were Made Public

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released the following statement marking one year since an inspector general’s secret report about problems at the Tomah (Wis.) Veterans Affairs Medical Center was brought to light.

“Today marks one year since the press reported the existence of an unreleased report by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) involving the mistreatment of veterans and whistleblower retaliation at the Tomah VA Medical Center.  The OIG’s failure to make the report public in effect swept the problems under the rug.

“Immediately following these disturbing reports, I directed my staff to begin a thorough investigation into the allegations of wrongdoing.  My goals are to bring accountability and transparency to the VA and the VA Office of Inspector General, to enhance whistleblower protections, and to ensure that the finest among us receive the high quality care they deserve. 

“Despite obstruction, we have taken major steps to learn what went so terribly wrong at Tomah.  But my work is not yet finished.  My committee continues to receive documents and to conduct interviews of witnesses with direct knowledge of what happened.  Because questions still remain, I will continue to push for accountability at the VA to ensure that veterans in Wisconsin and across the country can have full confidence that the care they receive at the VA is the best it can be.” 

Over the course of the investigation:

  • Pursuant to a letter Chairman Johnson wrote on March 17, 2015, the VA Office of Inspector General published 140 previously unreleased reports dating back to 2006.
  • Chairman Johnson issued a subpoena on April 29, 2015 to the VA Office of Inspector General.  To date, the Office of Inspector General has still failed to fully produce all documents required by the subpoena.
  • Chairman Johnson has authored or co-sponsored seven pieces of legislation to bring accountability to federal agencies, protect whistleblowers, and improve health care for veterans, including the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act.
  • Following receipt of a subpoena from Chairman Johnson, Richard Griffin, the acting VA inspector general who previously failed to publish results of the Inspector General’s Tomah investigation, resigned on June 30, 2015.  On October 2, 2015 President Obama heeded Chairman Johnson’s calls and nominated a permanent VA inspector general.
  • Chairman Johnson’s committee has held two hearings relating to the tragedies at the Tomah VA, including a field hearing in Tomah on March 30, 2015.
  • Chairman Johnson released an interim report on the Tomah VA investigation on June 25, 2015.
  • Chairman Johnson requested documents from the VA, the VA Office of inspector general, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. attorney for the western district of Wisconsin, the Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Joint Commission (a health care organization that accredits hospitals).
  • Chairman Johnson’s staff has spoken with countless whistleblowers and victims of the tragedies at Tomah.
  • Chairman Johnson’s staff has begun to conduct formal interviews of witnesses with knowledge about the tragedies at Tomah.

Related Content:

Chairman Johnson and Rep. Duffy letter to VA OIG on Tomah VAMC, Jan. 14, 2015

Chairman Johnson letter to President Obama requesting permanent VA OIG, Jan. 22, 2015

Chairman Johnson letter to VA Deputy IG Griffin on Tomah VAMC, Feb. 25, 2015

Chairman Johnson letter to VA Deputy IG Griffin on Tomah VAMC, March 11, 2015

Chairman Johnson letter to VA Deputy IG Griffin on 140 unreleased healthcare reports, March 17, 2015

HSGAC field hearing on Tomah VA Medical Center, March 30, 2015

Chairman Johnson letter to VA Deputy IG Griffin on Tomah VAMC, April 20, 2015

Chairman Johnson subpoena to VA Deputy IG Griffin, April 29, 2015

HSGAC Interim Majority Staff Report: Tragedy at Tomah: Initial Findings, June 25, 2015

Chairman Johnson letter to VA Deputy IG Halliday, July 7, 2015

Chairman Johnson letter to VA Deputy IG Halliday in response to “White Paper,” July 8, 2015

HSGAC hearing on VA accountability, Sept. 22, 2015

Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act, Oct. 1, 2015