In November, the U.S. Dept. of Justice completed an investigation into six Legionnaires’ disease-related deaths at the Pittsburgh Veteran’s Affairs Healthcare System, and found no VA employees were criminally liable.
Now, U.S. Reps. Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12) and Tim Murphy (R-PA-18), along with House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation Chairman Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) are calling for “full and open accounting” of administrative disciplinary actions taken against the VA employees.
In 2011, the spread of Legionella bacteria through the Oakland VA’s water system sickened 22 men, six of whom died.
Since November, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has acted against five individuals related to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak. Three of the cases have been completed, according to Carolyn Clancy, interim under secretary for health for the Department of Veteran Affairs, but the congressmen aren’t satisfied.
Rothfus, Murphy and Coffman sent a letter to Clancy requesting the names and positions of the employees who have been disciplined, along with any conclusions the VHA had reached during its investigation and the roles the five employees played in the outbreak.
Murphy said Congress wants to know those involved at the VA have been punished appropriately.
“The VA in the past might suspend someone without pay, may reassign them to somewhere else, but this is serious,” he said. “The inspector general said this was serious and we want to make sure that the response is one that is going to send a message throughout the VA that the VA does take these things seriously.”
Rothfus said releasing this information should provide closure for the victims’ families.
“There is a desire among the victims’ families to have a full accounting, a full transparent accounting,” he said. “So they can know that the event that led to the death of their loved ones, that every action has been taken to hold those accountable and make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
This is not the first time Congress has requested this information from the VA. According to Murphy, all attempts to communicate with the department have been “stonewalled” since November.
“There is a level of accountability that they should have to all veterans because they have got to restore confidence in the VA system that has been deeply harmed by their reactions,” he said. “And they’re not going to restore that confidence by being deceptive.”
The congressmen are hoping to receive a response from Clancy in the coming weeks.