June 22, 2018

Senate Passes Duckworth & Durbin Amendment to Protect VA Watchdog Independence


[WASHINGTON, DC] – The Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan amendment that was introduced by former Assistant VA Secretary and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-MT) to protect the VA Inspector General’s (IG) ability to effectively and independently investigate misconduct, waste and criminal matters involving the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). The amendment, which is part of the 2019 VA appropriations bill, reinforces the IG’s authority to access any records, documents or materials it needs to carry out its responsibilities under the Inspector General Act to conduct oversight of VA programs and operations.

“The men and women who have worn the uniform of this great nation and put themselves in danger to defend us deserve nothing but the best,” said Duckworth. “This bipartisan amendment ensures the Inspector General can conduct oversight and investigate misconduct at VA where it exists to help ensure that our warriors receive the care and support they have earned.”

"This amendment ensures the VA is being as transparent as possible with those tasked to investigate wrongdoing or misconduct,” Durbin said. "Strong oversight at the agency will ensure our veterans are being taken care of in a timely and quality manner. We owe our veterans nothing less.”

The amendment is a response to recent refusals by the Acting VA Secretary to provide the IG with documents potentially involving criminal matters, as well as with hundreds of employee complaints that were submitted to the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, which was created last year by bipartisan legislation Duckworth co-sponsored.

“The total lack of cooperation from the VA is alarming and a disservice to American veterans and taxpayers,” said Tester. “The VA must immediately comply with the IG’s request for access to information. The VA leadership that prides itself on transparency is not above the law or exempt from independent oversight. The Department must be held accountable to veterans and must stop this reckless behavior.”

In addition to Duckworth, Durbin and Tester, cosponsors of the amendment include Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Doug Jones (D-AL).