While he might be leaving Congress in the coming weeks, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., showed this week that he won’t go quietly.
Miller, the chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, served notice to the Obama administration that he wasn’t happy with the way it was running the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
On Tuesday, Miller pointed to a report from the VA’s Inspector General noting that there are still continued problems in Phoenix, Arizona. In early 2014, reports emerged that at least 40 veterans died in the Phoenix area while awaiting medical treatment and VA officials altered waiting lists to make it appear they would receive care in a more timely fashion. U.S. VA Sec. Eric Shinseki resigned under pressure as result of these reports.
Miller noted the new Inspector General report found at least one veteran recently died while awaiting treatment in the Phoenix area as problems continue to linger.
“More than two years after the Phoenix VA Health Care System became ground zero for VA’s wait-time scandal, many of its original problems remain, and this report is proof of that sad fact,” Miller said. “Although the report’s extensive use of confusing bureaucratic parlance makes digesting the IG’s findings a tedious chore, it’s clear veterans are still dying while waiting for care, that delays may have contributed to the recent death of at least one veteran and the work environment in Phoenix is marred by confusion and dysfunction. VA’s performance in Phoenix and across the nation will never improve until there are consequences up and down the chain of command for these and other persistent failures. Unfortunately, given that this report is largely devoid of clear lines of accountability to those responsible for Phoenix VAHCS’s current problems, it is unlikely these issues will be solved anytime soon.”
Miller also slammed U.S. VA Sec. Robert McDonald for continued problems building a VA medical center in Denver, Colorado.
Last year, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson told Colorado lawmakers a VA hospital in Aurora, near Denver, would cost $1.73 billion, far beyond its initial cost of $328 million. The hospital project languished for a decade and encountered numerous problems, including the contractor leaving at the end of 2014 after a federal appeals board ruled the VA's plans for the hospital could not be built for less than $600 million.
Miller has been vocal in his criticism of the project, calling it the biggest construction failure in VA history and vowing to hold the departments feet to the fire. Early last month, Miller’s committee subpoenaed the VA. While the VA responded at the end of the month, Miller insisted it had failed to address most of the requested information.
“As a taxpayer-funded organization, VA has a responsibility to explain its actions to Congress and the public,” Miller said on Monday. “Right now, it is failing in that responsibility. We simply will not tolerate VA’s attempts to keep information related to its wasteful art expenditures and the biggest construction failure in VA history shrouded in secrecy. Sec. McDonald must immediately comply with the terms of this subpoena.”