Senate confirms VA watchdog

Attorney Michael Missal will join the Department of Veterans Affairs as inspector general. The agency had spent more than two years without a Senate-confirmed watchdog before Missal got the nod from the U.S. Senate on April 19.

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After more than two years without a Senate-confirmed watchdog, the Department of Veterans Affairs has filled the post of inspector general. Michael Missal, a Washington attorney who specializes in government enforcement and internal investigations, takes over after being confirmed by the Senate by unanimous consent on April 19.

The department had been without a permanent IG since George Opfer announced his retirement at the end of 2013. In the time since, senators repeatedly called for a full-time replacement, and in July 2015 an acting head stepped down amid criticism of being too cozy with the department he was charged with overseeing.

President Barack Obama appointed Missal in October 2015, but the nomination had been held since January by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R.-Okla.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and David Vitter (R-La.).  The three released their holds after receiving assurances that their various concerns about deficiencies within VA would be addressed.

"Michael Missal is the tip of the spear to restore much-needed transparency and accountability at the VA Office of the Inspector General," Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a statement. Johnson chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which held Missal's confirmation hearing 

Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, also praised Missal's confirmation.

"I look forward to working with Mr. Missal as we root out the problems and hold bad actors at the VA accountable. With veterans still waiting too long to receive their care and benefits, now is the time for strong oversight and a cultural change at the VA," Isakson said. 

Missal "will be a key leader in our ongoing accountability to ensure the VA honors and helps our country's heroes, like his own father, a decorated World War II veteran who served in the Army's 286th engineer combat battalion," said Blumenthal.

Missal will assume the IG role immediately.

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