Boozman-Backed Legislation Strengthening VA Oversight Heads to President’s Desk to Be Signed into Law
Bill Expands VA Watchdog Authority
May 18 2022
WASHINGTON–– The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed bipartisan legislation championed by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) to strengthen oversight at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The legislation now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
The Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act of 2021 will provide the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) with the authority to subpoena testimony from former VA employees who have left federal service, former contractor personnel who performed work for the department, or other potentially relevant individuals during its inspections, reviews and investigations.
“Expanding the VA OIG’s authority to conduct more thorough investigations will help ensure accountability,” Boozman said. “Support by Congress for this proposal demonstrates the consensus of providing additional oversight tools to improve transparency. I urge the president to quickly sign this bill into law so we can deliver the high-quality care veterans deserve.”
The legislation passed the Senate last month. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Boozman, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).
Under current law, the VA OIG does not have testimonial subpoena authority to compel individuals relevant to investigations to answer questions in person and under oath. This can limit both the VA OIG and Congress’ ability to conduct complete and thorough reviews, including of VA health care and benefits programs, management actions and contracts. The legislation will expand the VA OIG’s authority to provide stronger oversight over the department.
Last year, the VA OIG issued damning reports tied to the failures at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville and the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia that resulted in the deaths of veterans in these facilities. The VA OIG has also identified additional investigations since 2017 where expanded subpoena authority would have assisted the independent watchdog in investigating patient safety, procurement and ethical conflicts of interest.