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Opening Statement of The Honorable Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

I would like to welcome everyone to our hearing tonight where we will discuss VA’s continued lack of compliance with the subpoena for documents we issued on May eighth [8th].

First, I would like to ask unanimous consent that Representative Sheila Jackson lee from the state of Texas be allowed to join us here on the dais tonight. 

Hearing no objection, so ordered.

As I am sure many of you are aware, this afternoon the VA Office of Inspector General issued an interim report that confirmed appointment scheduling manipulation, discovered by this committee, and substantiated that significant delays in access to care have negatively impacted the quality of care at the phoenix VA medical center.

The OIG also indicated that it has expanded its investigation and has opened cases regarding forty-two VA medical facilities nationwide.  The OIG clearly found that inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout VA. The OIG’s interim findings make it all the more urgent for VA to come clean and fully comply with our subpoena. Veterans’ health is at stake, and I will not stand for a department cover-up. Further, to fulfill our congressional oversight duties, it is absolutely essential to receive the documents we request from the VA.

The scope of the May eighth [8th] subpoena was very narrow and was sufficiently tailored to provide a reasonable time to produce the documents in full. The subpoena simply demanded production by may nineteenth of all emails and written correspondence sent and received by certain VA officials between April 9, 2014 and May 8, 2014, regarding the destruction or disappearance of alternate or interim waitlists at the Phoenix VA Medical Center.

My staff was told that the committee would only be receiving a partial response on the original due date and that VA would produce additional documents on a rolling basis over an indefinite and undefined period of time thereafter.

If this committee were to acquiesce to VA’s unilateral rewriting of the subpoena terms, it would perpetuate VA’s belief that selective compliance with committee requests is acceptable and would allow VA to continue its perceived mission to prevent this committee from doing its job.

Last night, we received from VA what they purport to be the last of the three sets of documents they have produced to the committee. The VA has claimed that they searched twenty seven different record custodians and they have produced over fifty-five hundred [5500] pages of documents. At this point, given their pattern of stone-walling committee requests, i am not at all convinced that they have conducted a thorough and comprehensive search for responsive records.

I know that VA is withholding documents relating to at least three relevant communications by claiming attorney-client privilege.  However, VA failed to produce the privilege log demanded by the subpoena, or provide any explanation whatsoever, which is necessary for us to consider whether we will accept the assertion of privilege. This committee deserves a complete explanation of the interim list document destruction at phoenix and for its general failure to respond to ongoing requests related to delays in care. 

Last week, I invited Ms. Joan Mooney, Dr. Thomas Lynch, and Mr. Michael Huff to explain VA’s incomplete record production to the Committee. 

They failed to show.

On May twenty-second [22nd], we prepared three additional subpoenas for Dr. Lynch,
Ms. Mooney, and Mr. Huff to compel them to appear before us this week, if they again decided to decline our invitation to this evening’s hearing. We expect VA to be forthcoming, but unfortunately it takes repeated requests and threats of compulsion to get them to even be here today.  I look forward to hearing what they have to say.