Subpoena Vote Follows Heated McDonald Exchange With Congress

Veterans Affairs Subpoena

Benjamin KrauseThe House Committee on Veterans Affairs voted unanimously to subpoena records from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The vote comes immediately on the heels of a heated exchange between Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Secretary Bob McDonald.

In the Secretary’s letter, McDonald expressed confusion about the Committee’s objection to redacting certain document it provided, “I am confused by the need for a subpoena…. Had the Committee staff agreed to certain reasonable privacy conditions, your staff would have seen all relevant and applicable files.”

READ: Secretary McDonald letter to Congress April 29, 2015

Chairman Miller responded in his letter by reminding the Secretary of the problems that resulted in the former Secretary Eric Shinseki stepping down, “This committee exposed the Department’s delays-in-care scandal at an April 9, 2014, congressional hearing, setting in motion a sequence of events that essentially forced the resignation of your predecessor and led to you becoming secretary.”

READ: Chairman Miller reply to McDonald May 1, 2015

Do you think it is time VA stops playing ‘hide the cheese’ games with it redaction of investigation files? How do you think VA should handle privacy concerns of its employees?

Congress is fired up over persistent obstructionist attempts by VA OIG to help whitewash criminal problems at Tomah VA Medical Center. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, also subpoenaed documents related to the scandal the day prior to the House Committee following suit.

I am pleased VA OIG is finally releasing most of its investigation results following public outcry due to perceived cover-ups of complaints against agency employees. But what should be the next step of Secretary McDonald to stop his whitewash machine most people call VA OIG?


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    VA/VARO will just lie to Congress. They’ll display their adeptness at shell game theory, bizarro legal tactics along with smoke-n-mirrors. VA just laughs at Congress. I do hope Congressman Miller makes headway though,

    Americas’ veterans that use VA/VARO are counting on someone in Congress to be able to reign in the thuggery at VA!

  2. Whatever happened to McDonald’s new policy and method of showing bad VA employees the door and out within 28 days. Has it actualltbeen done. It takes years and even the an act of God to get these Civil Servants good for nothing, shiftless, lazy, crooked, thieving parasites and leeches. They always feel they are entitled without the blood, sweat anders we put in. GTFO

  3. If the VA has someone looking at this, they should know by now that Veterans are feed up with the way things are going. Why are other Government Agencies looking at the Messages and do some thing about this mess. You all have some very strong stories that need to be addressed “BUT WHO IS GOING TO TAKE MISSION ON and stand up for all of us. McDonald tells congress Just look at the Veteran sites and you will see that they are happy. LOL LOL Its time for BOB to go, He likes the Attention that VA Management shows him to his face and after he leaves, they Laugh at him and he can’t see this..

  4. VA incompetence runs rampant …. A VA dentist tried to pull one of my teeth but I stopped him; told him I did not think it an extraction was necessary and that a crown was appropriate. He again said it was not. For reasons unknown to me, the VA sent me to an outside dentist to have a different tooth crowned. Upon examining my teeth, the outside (private) dentist told me that two teeth (this included the tooth that the VA tried to pull) needed to be crowned. Even though the VA had authorized the private dentist to crown only one tooth, I told him to crown both teeth, i.e., the one the VA authorized and the one that they had tried to extract, and that I would pay for this second crown. Unbeknown to me, this private dentist called the VA dental clinic that referred me to him and was apparently shocked by the runaround he was given (similar to what we all have encountered at the VA). So, to use those memorable words Jack Nicolson shouted in the movie A Few Good Men, this VA dental clinic had “F..ked with the wrong dentist.” Unaccustomed to being treated rudely and dusted off (something we veterans take for granted and expect from the VA) this private dentist wrote a letter to the Chief of Dentistry at my VA dental clinic quoting Tufts University school of Dentistry on what constituted Dental Malpractice, i.e., over the objections of the patient, attempting to extract a tooth that could be saved by crowing it; a more expensive, but for sure the right and appropriate dental procedure. He received no written response from the VA but proceeded to put crowns on both teeth. Strangely, I never received a bill from this dentist for the second crown (the one the VA had said it would not pay for).

    Upon reviewing my VA medical records, the VA dental clinic acknowledged a phone call from this private dentist and reinforced their position that they would not pay for a crown to be put on a tooth that they felt should be extracted.

    Now the Kicker; while my VA medical records made no mention of the Dental Malpractice letter from this private dentist, the VA did in fact pay for both of the crowns. I guess that a letter from a private doctor using words like “malpractice,” something we veterans know happens at VA healthcare facilities every day, intimidated these VA healthcare providers – they are just not accustomed any form of oversight, i.e., to peer reviews from the private sector. In this case, my VA dental clinic was either guilty of medical (dental) malpractice, or misuse of government funds (by paying for a crown that they had already said was inappropriate).

    The VA lies to, pushes around, disrespects, and performs shoddy medical treatment on us veterans on a daily basis. Why in the world would anyone think that pushing more money into a corrupt and incompetent VA healthcare system would have any hope of solving these problems? More money put into this system will only serve to broaden the already rampant mismanagement and corruption. The real answer is to privatize the VA Healthcare
    System and give us disabled veterans the same freedom of medical choice that Secretary McDonald and the US Congress enjoy.

  5. All Shinseki’s years, and now this buffoon; and all things get is worse.

    Nothing will change until prosecutions and convictions begin in frighteningly large yet appropriate numbers, and penalties are assessed commensurate with the malfeasance.

    Personally, I think the current circumstances are what the Congressional-military-industrial complex wants.

    1. You make sense to me. Shinseki was a long-time, honorable public servant who did not deserve the castigation received.
      There are too many people who want the VA to fail and I don’t know why. Legitimate criticism is essential. Overreaching to satisfy a political bloodlust is reprehensible, because it poisons the collective public opinion (including us veterans) about the VA. How does that serve veterans?

  6. It is a wonder that I don’t have to add an anal prolapse to one of the conditions with which I am afflicted after having to deal with the sodomizing process of fraud and denial of due process by the Department of Veterans Affairs —

    The problems of the VA are not only systemic, they are actually standard operating procedure and should be discoverable through an examination of documents and communications at the agency. In my case, I have been in an eleven year struggle for benefits and my case was remanded back to the RO over a year ago. The VA has harassed me and committed fraud against me to say the least, but I found that the VA had removed/hid crucial medical records and other documents as well from my C-file before sending it up to the Judge – most likely. I know this by provenance and due to the fact that I had retained copies of the missing documents. The provenance is established as follows – the CD of some 1679 pages sent to the judge and my lawyer did not have the medical records – that were, missing but had the records from the same hospital in Germany – the 97th General Military Hospital- surrounding those records. When the VA requests these records from NARC – they come as an entire bundle. Someone had to remove these documents before sending up the the Board or else at the Board; and, before the copy of the CD was sent to my attorney. Additionally, they continued to get the wrong condition regarding an injury claim for they only read the pre-operative diagnosis and not the actual extensive description of a different surgery entirely when it was discovered in the operative diagnosis. These people are using a “secret” SOP and coding veterans with “quality of veteran codes” or SPN codes to pigeon hole and then provide substandard treatment while bullying of the veteran – especially if the veteran has a contested claim. There are numerous articles regarding my general allegations and law suits as well about the use of secret quality of veterans’ codes as well.

    Lloyd Bardell

  7. Whatttt? Bob hasn’t even got his first billion dollars with residual income for life from vendors yet. Please tell me it isn’t so.

  8. From today’s Stars & Stripes,

    I firmly believe that VA Under Secretary Hickey is perpetuating this “Ignorance Is Bliss” image as well where in aforementioned article it states, “Allison Hickey, the VA’s undersecretary for benefits, has said she does not believe problems in Philadelphia are “systemic” but more likely a case of misunderstood policies.

    Delays in compensation claims prompted veterans groups to seek changes last year before attention shifted to problems at the Phoenix VA medical center. The VA ultimately found that patient waits and falsified records in its health network were “systemic,” leading to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.”

    HOW can she reduce it to trying to make it sound as if THE PROBLEM is *just* “…a case of misunderstood policies”?

    What part of leaving Veteran Claim Files and Medical Records TO ROT and facility security and healthiness and cleanliness left to total level of unkemptness is a case of “MISUNDERSTOOD POLICIES”?
    Come on…if you are going to outright LIE, at least make it somewhat plausible!!!!

    The problem IS systemic. But I do not think the VA understands what THAT word means either…as well as what their jobs are…to SERVE VETERANS…not themselves.

    You could not even make this crap up!

    1. “…if you are going to outright lie at least make it plausible.” Is a very good point, but respectfully, you are mistaken in giving this advice. Paraphrasing, a young corporal who served in the Austrian Army in WWI wrote a book, “Mein Kampf” I believe was the name. In it, he correctly surmised, that the bigger and more outrageous the lie, the more the people will believe it.

      He went on to practice this theory and rose to a world leader. Like the VHA, he ended up killing a lot of people too. Instead of Disruptive Behavior Committees in their health care though, they had Akton T4 committees. Pretty much the same thing.

      1. Yes it seems that people will believe lying before the truth no matter how many innocent people are effected, even going so far as to not look at the evidence that it was a lye!

  9. What is the VA hiding? All this not releasing and sharing data is just perpetuating the mistrust of the VA by the Veterans, Public and Congress! If they were more forthright, they may have a better public image, regain trust and be able to make strides to solve some of the issues. Can’t solve them if you are too busy denying/hiding them!

  10. I have unfortunately been a patient with the VA for years starting at VA Palo Alto. Working 20 years at NASA I retired under special deal with Pres Nixon with tax free retirement due to my total disability & with good health insurance. Nixon wanted to give outside businesses contracts for the operation of NASA facilities. Unfortunately for me & NASA, I gave up my health insurance to use the VA due to my disability, & a few years later every one of Ames Research Center wind tunnels were broken down & inoperative due to the contractors inability to keep the complex electrical systems operational. Then Reagan comes along, gave big tax breaks to the upper echelon of money bags & takes the tax free retirement a few hundred had & converted it to a taxable retirement. Took a few dollars from working men & gave millions to the rich.

    The VA I could write a book on medical indiscretions that I have endured from the VA. I must say however there has been some good that as well has happened. I am blind in left eye because they had outside specialist come in for a problem I had & he used a laser to kill a blood vein. He also hit my retina with the laser & left a scar right in the central focus point. Later moving to Texas I had a problem with eye & Shreveport VA sent me to an outside retina specialist. They used an injection system to kill another blood vein & asked how I got the scar on the retina. Told them & they said you never use a laser near the retina, was this guy a doctor ? They could not believe a doctor did it. I could go on with many more events.

    A typical problem I see with the VA is like the dentists I have seen in space of about 7 years have no supervision, they made partial plates (3) that I did not need & they fit so poorly I asked what I should do with them & was told to throw them away. In the mean time with my many complaints & arguments my teeth fell apart, starting with 2 small gumline cavities. I now have dentures. I ran around for about 2 years with a half tooth tin temporary cap on one front tooth & the other front tooth broken off. I know it is cosmetic, but it is still very embarrassing.

    The main problem I see is that the whole & complete VA feels the veterans are there for them. And most decisions are made by doctors as though they were some kind of God, even in non-related situations. THE DOCTORS & ALL OF THE STAFF ARE THERE FOR THE VETS, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND THAT THE VETS ARE THERE FOR THEM !!!!! BUT THAT IS THE CONCEPTION OF MOST DOCTORS & A LOT OF THE STAFFS. Any one that shows blatant disrespect to a veteran should be fired, just as an example if for no other reason.

  11. Due to the VA flagging my file I’m no longer getting medical care that is adequate or effective. My question is…Now that I have to seek medical care outside the VA, how do I bill them for it?

    1. Bob, how did they flag your file? What does it say? In my case, I reported a specific veteran and his group of drug-crazed pals for their plan to gravely harm someone. The intended victim actually works for the VA, she may be a flawed person as is common at the VA, but you just don’t go around planning to do something like that to anyone for any reason. I was immediately arrested by VA cops after I picked out the suspect from their photo line-up. If my wife had not been there, and the intended victim of their bizarre conspiracy I would have worse than a fraudulently placed flag on my file. The VA actually is somehow involved in this incident, that is obvious to everyone including the 20 or so witnesses who saw the whole thing including the way they falsely arrested me. My flag says I was part of the conspiracy! What a bunch of lying pricks! It does not seem to matter that the VA Deputy Police Chief of this district sent me two letters of apology and apologized by phone. Now I get to have VA armed cops following me around to any VA appointment I have for now on. It is how they reduce patient loads. I am guessing what they did to you was not so over the top bizarro. Two words: The VA, everyone who works there, needs to be drug tested, including Secretary McDonald. Let them all pay for the testing themselves. Then they either get drug diversion therapy or jail. Rough guess is about 20% of all VA employees have a serious drug problem. That would explain why the VA is such a mess.

  12. Here’s the problem. Congress can be as fired up as they want, but the powers-that-be within the agency — and the current administration — will do their damnedest to keep covering up the misdeeds of the VA. If they didn’t, the low security and federal prison camps would soon be housing a few hundred VA execs.

    I was encouraged to see that Congress passed last summer’s legislation, but was not impressed when I read what it. Giving the Director more power to fire employees accomplishes very little if he’s disinclined to do so. After all was said and done, the VA fired a few of the highest profile offenders, made some promises it had no intention of keeping, and this was enough for the attention-span-of-an-ant American public.

    This legislation was, in fact, a major win for the corrupt (perhaps even evil) status quo at the VA. The agency got billions of dollars to make changes. They did some eyewash crap and pocketed the rest of the funds. Now, that money is built into the agency’s baseline forever-and-ever, going forward.

    I hope this leads to some real reform at the VA, but I’m skeptical. As long as Congress has no real power to fix this, the Director and the administration will continue to stonewall meaningful reform. Bottom line, I hope this investigation helps, but I’m skeptical that it will.

  13. The last paragraph in the Stars and Stripes states:

    In response to McDonald’s assertion that a subpoena “unnecessarily erodes the confidence of veterans and the American people in our ability to work together in the best interest of veterans,” Miller wrote: “Contrary to the assertions in your letter, it is the VA’s actions to stonewall this committee — actions that began long before your tenure as Secretary, and continue to occur today — which has eroded the confidence of veterans and the American people in our ability to work together. I trust that through VA’s immediate cessation of its groundless efforts to withhold information, we can rebuild that confidence.”

    McDonald thinks that the subpoena “erodes the confidence of veterans and the American people in our ability to work together in the best interest of veteran”. I think it is time for Bob to go. If he thinks we have confidence in him and the VA he is way out of touch. Miller’s answer makes sense that the VA has eroded the confidence of us veterans and Bob was supposed to be “that guy” who started to fix the VA. He clearly has no intentions to fix the VA or more would have been done by now to show that he wants the VA to be better that it has been. Who is next on the list to replace Bob and maybe us veterans should have a say in what happens the next time or just have a say in things period.

  14. Congressman 1: “Okay, before the cameras start — uh, make sure we aren’t filming yet. Uh, Bob, do you want us to go easy on you today or rip you a new one?” (Everyone laughs.)

    Bob: “I don’t give an F. Make it look like you’re going to subpoena me or something. Hey, I know. Really subpoena me. The vets and everyone else will eat it up.” (More laughter as Bob gets a back rub from Congresswoman 1.)


    Congresswoman 1: (To Bob, looking at his twitching brow.) “Honey, I think you need a muscle relaxer or something, you have been working so hard. I mean, all this looks so real, almost as if you are angry or surprised. Well, come by my office and we can have your doctors come in and “Mommy” (massaging Bob’s shoulders) will make sure they get your stress down.”

    Bob: “You got it. Now, let’s get this promo going. Ready, ACTION!” (Cameras roll.)

    Congressman 1: “Secretary McDonald! Can you tell me why things have not changed at the VA and it’s all still more of the same!”

    Bob: (IN A WILD RAGE as he SLAPS THE CAMERA ONLY INCHES FROM HIS FACE.) “Damn, I said no close ups! And, Mr. Chairman, you need to look more angry. Let’s try it again. This time pound your fist and yell at me. Pretend like your salary is getting cut or something. Make it look real you pussy!”


    Congressman 1: “Yes, sir.” (Slapping himself in the face, jabbing at the air like a boxer.) Okay, “You f_ _ _ ing son of a b _ _ ch! I have had it with your stonewalling this committee! We are not going to take much more of your …”

    Bob: “Dammit all. Now you are too out of control. Where’s our writers? Can we get them back in here? Am I supposed to make all of this up on my own today or what?”
    (His cell phone rings.) “Sorry, it’s my dentist. I have to take this. Let’s do this next week everybody.” (He gets up and walks out as everyone starts texting and making calls to home, lunch dates and so on.)

    Congressman 1: (To his assistant) “Hey, get to work on another stunt we can set up on the White House lawn, maybe a wild pack of monkeys jumps the fence or something, or dream something up of your own. Make it sensational like the gyrocopter thing, but get it going today. I can’t take much more of these sessions. I really need a break from this VA thing.”

    ( not tooting my horn at all, its because of an oath taken more than once, “Do No Harm.” I care deeply for others, and you know if someone is having dark thoughts, you do not push buttons, make up a story line. Because you broke PROTOCOL UP FRONT-GIVE YOU IQ OF TEN. FIRST LISTEN, THEN TRY ANOTHER APPROACH IN TECHNIQUE, DONT HARP ON LIKE YOU WANT TO CATCH A BIG FISH AND REEL IT IN? ACTUALLY YOU JUST REMAIN CALM, THEN CHANGE THE COURSE, SPEEKING OF FEELINGS FOR NONE OF US ARE TRULY ALONE.

  16. wow, back in the day we’d call that an ass chewing!

    Jeff is the man!

    and “bob” is well… just another CYA type of character.

    What escapes me is: Why would bob go down with the ship? He’s gonna make shinseki look like a Boy Scout before he too resigns in disgrace.

    bob could have been a hero to Vets and the American people, he should have just marched in, let heads roll, take his lickins but stand strong in cleaning house, to hell with the consequences, he’d forever be known as the man who FINALLY took out the trash.

    But, nope!

    What is it with the power of the VA, what is it that makes these guys defend the sinking ship?

    please somebody… fill in this common jarhead.

  17. I think he needs to stay.. there is a lot that has been done positive yes still more is needed. But it’s a huge organization and sure not easy to manage. Congress should work on removing the barrier to firing the ones who are protected from being removed! Too many folks just get transferred

  18. Thirteen months in from the national headlines and very little at the VA has changed. Veterans are still experiencing excessive wait times for health care, the choice card is a joke, the coverups continue, the hiring of more doctors and nurses hasn’t materialized, disability claims can still take years to resolve, the IG continues to protect malfeasance, malpractice and fraud and still no one has been fired as a direct result of the scandal. It is just business as usual.

    Am I suppose to have confidence that at some point this will all get better when McDonald and the Congressional Committee along with its Chairman appear to be in an adversarial relationship? I would bet McDonald was never bellicose with his Board of Directors at Proctor and Gamble. Or, maybe he was, and that is why they fired his under performing butt.

    Everyone said, give McDonald a chance. I say, he is now part of the problem and not the solution. The solution lies in Congress putting on their big boy pants and start to dismantle the VA in favor of private health care. In the interim, give management the right to fire the misfits and gamers.

  19. Yes McDonald should leave he also refuses to ANSWER veterans concerns or his staff is doing nothing for him eather way he is responsible for just letting va management do their own policeing their own mess ups and illegal disruptive committee given the ok to keep hurting veterans with out them produce any evidence that the veterans have in fact been disruptive at any time and only using hearsay and using those hear say statements as fact and require no proof that the veterans were ever disruptive they must be required to produce any and all proof they used to punish the veterans. What do you folks think about the illegal tactics the va is using to punish veterans for no reason other than they va employee has it in for the veteran

  20. Ben, how about -1- essential MAJOR CHANGE being pushed forward with regard of the relationship AND *accountability* between ANY staff of the VA and ANY MEETING with Congressional Veteran Committees AND **ALL HEARINGS and INQUIRIES** and finally REQUIRE even from VA Secretary, VAOIG, and ANY VA employee by **REQUIRING THEY BE SWORN-IN/OATHE TO TELL THE TRUTH and WHOLE TRUTH WITH IMMEDIATE RAMIFICATIONS OF EVEN TELLING HALF-TRUTHS, WITHHOLDING OF *ANY* INFO, PUNISHABLE BY *IMMEDIATE TERMINATION* AND *IMPRISONMENT* for PERJURY UNDER LAW?

    Also, this practice of the VAOIG being allowed to “POLICE THEMSELVES” with still NO ACOUNTABILITY, only ENABLES them to “Doctor and PAD REPORTS” and “PICK AND CHOOSE WHAT, if anything, THEY RELEASE”.

    Can these suggested changes be highly suggested to Rep. Jeff Miller and other members of Congress from perhaps the likes of you, Ben, to show that this culture of dysfunction MUST START with transparency rather than the CHERRY PICKING and FUDGING NUMBERS that has shown to be systemic by simple repetition?

    How is it Veterans are fully expected to act with integrity and honesty when filing claims and dealing with the VA, but the VA’s own upper management echelon repeatedly thumbs their noses at said integrity/honesty to those they are responsible to report to? How does that even instill ANY ounce of faith and trust from Veterans when EVEN the VA Secretary is riding the stonewall train?

    These specific exchanges mentioned in today’s articles show how the VA’s upper management thinks THEY ARE ENTITLED to some sort of special privacy, giving reasons for withholding data based on this “privacy” and I firmly believe THIS MUST CHANGE in order for REAL CHANGE to happen BELOW THEM IN RANKS as well.

    I am writing all my State’s Reps./Senators today about just this. Will fellow Veterans follow suit? What else can we do to more than merely SUGGEST said changes take place? Should Congress MANDATE a total overhaul of the VAOIG practices and NOT with YET ANOTHER VA “Contractor”??

    This 800 LB gorilla of an issue seems to only be ‘danced around’ but never pushed for implementation.

  21. I am service connected veterans who like many others fell victim to these unacceptable conduct of the VA Staffs. How can I be of help in supporting the cause of veterans?

    1. The Secretary should be held in contempt of Congress. The hearing prior to the subpoena explicitly gave legal grounds and concerns regarding Congress ability to request all files. privacy documents and all. The concern now is to go after the lawyers who are trying to change the definition of the law, which is a direct attack on the Constitution in which all Americans should be offended.

      1. I agree with madterrance. So should a lot of other people at VA…

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