Congress Honesty Letter

Why Does Congress Need To Remind VA To Be Honest?

In a bipartisan letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, members of Congress reminded him that upcoming major transitions “require VA to be more open, transparent, complete, and candid.”

Candid? Open? Transparent? Does the federal government even know what those words mean when applied to themselves?

It is an interesting time we live in when Congress needs to remind a supposed benevolent agency like VA that it needs to be honest and open with lawmakers.

Last I checked, Congress is supposed to control the purse, so why do they need to cajole the agency into being honest? Can Congress really do anything to VA when ignored?

The signers critiqued VA over its previously sparse staff-level briefings on the implementation of the VA MISSION Act, the Accountability Act, the Colmery Act, Appeals Modernization, and EHRM. The members reminded VA of the expectation that the agency be “collaborative” and provide “detailed” briefings.

Over the past few months, both sides of Congress have been highly critical of the agency for a lack of transparency. Most recently, VA’s press statements suggested the agency would not collaborate with stakeholders. After a significant outcry, Wilkie changed course.

Apparently, the Senate thought VA needed further reminding with a public letter included below in its entirety, in italics.

Senate Letter On Cooperation

As the 116th Congress convenes, we write to encourage you and your senior leadership team to work collaboratively with Congress as you implement major, simultaneous changes to veterans’ health care and benefits programs. 

During the 115th Congress, we worked in a bipartisan manner to pass twenty-five pieces of major veterans’ legislation, including significant reforms to community care, appeals, accountability, and education benefits. Just five months from now, VA must begin operating the new Veterans Community Care Program that was created in the VA MISSION Act. This will fundamentally transform the delivery of veterans’ health care. VA will concurrently implement provisions from other laws, including the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (Accountability Act), the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (Colmery Act), and the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (Appeals Modernization). All of these changes will be happening as VA implements the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) project, one of the largest information technology modernization projects in our nation’s history.

Since your confirmation, your team has provided staff-level briefings -albeit somewhat limited in scope and details -on the status of implementation of the VA MISSION Act, the Accountability Act, the Colmery Act, Appeals Modernization, and EHRM. As we begin a new Congress, we expect regular, detailed briefings to continue and that you will take a collaborative approach that maximizes transparency and demonstrates your intent that Congress be a full and true partner in implementation of these critical laws and initiatives.

With all of the reforms underway simultaneously, it is vital for VA to share information openly – even pre-decisional information – so that we can work together and have a common understanding of the impact of changes, including costs, and are able to assess the impact any changes will have on other parts of VA. We share the common goal of VA ‘s success, and our hope is that early, frequent, and fully transparent dialogs will allow VA and Congress to jointly head off the kind of serious missteps we have seen in some recent implementation efforts. All of the changes being implemented require VA to be more open, transparent, complete, and candid when engaging with Congress in the critical implementation stages of these programs. Specific to the VA MISSION Act, we request the data used to inform your decision on the proposed access standards, the projected number of veterans expected to access care, any impact on VA’s internal ability to provide care to veterans, and an implementation plan for the proposed access standards. 

We are hopeful that under your leadership VA can build a more collaborative relationship with Congress in the near-te1m. We look forward to a cooperative partnership between Congress and VA in order to effectively carry out all of the many new programs and initiatives underway that will make VA the model for 21st century delivery of health care and services to veterans.

Bipartisan Support

Both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, are troubled by the agency’s lack of transparency. But can Congress really do anything?

For years, I waited for retired Rep. Jeff Miller to get it done at VA. Nothing really happened other than the dispelling of a lot of hot air. We frequently see lawmakers chastise VA, but when can we expect leaders to be held in contempt for lying to Congress? Or, is it all a show?

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  1. On the standards issue : VA has been collecting Data for decades, they have an electronic record system (EHR) but the head of health informatics , I believe her name is Jeannie Smith said in the last public meeting the VA doesn’t have or publish patient safety standards because the people at ANSI or ISO have not published standards. Yeah, like they are in charge of the VA, right?. OK! But NO, this comes from on top: ” Do nothing with the Data , lets get drunk” Right-O Dr Mengle!
    While we wait, Veterans are dying. This is an example of the VA saying TS to all of us. We all know they have their own best practices ( drinking and drugging) and hold regular meetings (parties), they have data and suck it down with alcohol — they refuse to change , refuse to implement best practices and continue to hurt us. They are sitting on a goldmine of data and what’s happening to it. The Morons sit there looking at the data while they’re getting drunk. People like Dr Harvey Fineberg at the IOM know about all this stuff, the CDC knows about it and so does Congress, the jig is up on “charade”. You can see VA talking heads as members of, they also spew the miasma of health information data collection (It’s disgusting what 501C’s do for a living while drinking on the job) Letters to the VA are like toilet paper they use to wipe up their own vomit or and body parts with–you will find the letters in the trash if not in the toilet. Data collection is another tax dodge or money giveaway game for EHR people. for James Clement has it right as written above. Thank you James, always a good summation. Peace, out.

  2. “Why does Congress need to remind VA to be honest”. Because of VA’s dereliction of duty, and lack of mental retention.

  3. Laughing out loud. Respect, Honor, Integrity, Respect, Transparency, Honesty, etc? Doesn’t exist in this country and has not for a long long long time. That is bottom to top, top to bottom and every angle in between the lying filth and lies that are totally accepted today. Just like them all making promises never kept on every campaign trail. Include all other deep-seated institutions, bureaucrats, establishments, all those ruling “complexes,” and corporations out there, every-damn-thing. Funny thing is…. we are the enemy for any reason they may claim. Congress will not and can not change anything. Just lip service charades is their games or else they’d be under the same laws and health care as us, not living above the serfs and cannon fodder.

    Congress has also signed away their purse strings over to the scum like the Federal Reserve, bankers, lobbyist, secret societies, to foreigners. Kinda like the going to war powers they used to have.

    If we can’t get any of those things listed on the street signs on a local or state level from any agency or some professional it’s a waste of time expecting it from the trash at the top. Besides, like school boards and others there are ordinances and laws backing them up on what is meant for public consumption or not, or what is allowed to be mentioned in town meetings or brought to the lying propagandizing media. So enjoy living in the open air prison camp called the USA full of the brain-washed or brain-dead. It’s just going to get worse since everything seems to have been weaponized, people fear retaliations of every sort, and some of us catch worse flak than others. And some really enjoy watching us being tormented and suffering.

  4. Really?

    For around a decade there have been into the thousands of posts to Ben’s blog, mentioning the myriad things gone askew within the VA branch of our government. Many of those posts have rightly placed much blame on Congress, for putting many veteran related issues on to the back burner to simmer until the kettle melts away! In just this century we’ve gone through five or so SecVA’s and some have thought they were all powerful and entitled to dictate their own process, ordering everyone around them to toe THAT mark, or else!

    There are DOZENS of fresh faces in Congress and so far, untainted by the “same old way” of getting things (not)done. They have a lot of work to do for the whole country, while training at least one toddler at the executive level; and I think one toddler is way too many! Don’t forget they also were forced to hit the ground running into an unnecessary government shutdown. Let’s give them a little more than a couple of days to formulate some ideas on how to improve things within the VA system. IMO the letter was an appropriately placed polite swift kick reminder to the VA twig of the Executive Branch, to not forget another one third of our governing body.

    Constructive criticism tempered with well formed suggestions is the fine tuning needed to get viable changes into the minds of the policy makers and rule changers. Just because things are really, really crappy within the VA system, and they have been getting worse as time goes on, does not guarantee that there will never be an about face toward a better system for those coming into the system. So many of us are simply treated as beyond repair in their eyes, and it sucks, it sucks, it sucks beyond all reasonable sensibility that those within VHA just plain don’t want to exert the smallest effort to give comfort.

  5. 02/06/2019

    Dear Benjamin Krause,

    Hacienda Healthcare Center in Phoenix, Arizona is very similar to the VA.

    The internationally known Hacienda Healthcare Center is “Out of Control” and the Staff, the non-compliant Management & their Board is not listening to the Governor Ducey of Arizona.

    How does this Hospital have so much Power to ignore the Governor and the Police of Arizona?

    The Phoenix VA is pretending not to have a problem; this VA hospital cannot move from the One Star Rating that it Rated its self; after Millions of Dollars and countless number of Man hours the rating is unchanged–like the VA—according to Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke in his Testimony to Rep. Higgins on 07/16/2018 [who was Demoted and Removed for being “honest”].

    “…it is vital for VA to share information openly”—-Senator Warren still has not received the information on the William Nutter Case after two years of requests. Now this Senator is actively running for President.

    Until the major shifts in the Power Base at the VA—the VA will remain the same.

    It won’t be long—VA Secretary Wilkie will have a new reality!


    Don Karg

  6. VA being honest and transparent with Congress, can that be considered an oxymoron? How bout VA and Congress being honest with veterans? That’s not going to happen because veterans who complain are not given a voice. Veterans that complain don’t buy into the BS both institutes spew because they’re on the receiving end of the swamp drainage, gloss, spin, obfuscation and white washing that VA and Congress are so adept. Nothing will change, most veterans will continue to get screwed; I don’t see anything different in what has been proposed. I only have a little time left on this earth, I’m 70, and the less dealings I have with the “delay, deny, hope you die” VA the better my life will be, and I’ll probably live longer. Congress and VA are whited sepulchers fulll of dead veteran’s bones… Where y’all gonna spend eternity?

  7. Rise and Shine Veterans don’t you the know you by the Veteran Administration and our Senators and Representatives is the Legal Mafia.

  8. It’s “been a show” for decades! What makes anyone believe it’ll change because of a freaking letter!

  9. To this point it is all a show. EVERYTHING is contained in the last paragraph of that Congressional Letter:

    “We are hopeful that under your leadership VA can build a more collaborative relationship with Congress in the near-te1m. We look forward to a cooperative partnership between Congress and VA in order to effectively carry out all of the many new programs and initiatives underway that will make VA the model for 21st century delivery of health care and services to veterans.”

    Old Military Saying: Hope in one hand, Shit in the other. See which fills fastest.

    Sums it up nicely.

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