VA still dragging feet in answering congressional inquiries

Magnifying glass

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ pattern of selective responsiveness – and sometimes total unresponsiveness – to oversight inquiries from the House Veterans Affairs Committee has continued into 2014.

VA has 111 outstanding requests for information from the panel dating back to June 2012, including a series of eight inquiries delivered to VA in late October and into November concerning  information technology security in the wake of multiple data breaches compromising VA networks since 2010.

Those inquiries, a high priority for the committee because of the potential seriousness of the data breaches, were due in early November, are now two months overdue, with only a preliminary letter authored by VA CIO Stephen Warren sent to Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

“The leisurely pace with which VA is returning requests – and in some cases not returning them – is a major impediment to the basic oversight responsibilities of the committee,” a Capitol Hill official with knowledge of the inquiries told FCW.

The source said VA’s unanswered questions have “created mounting frustration” for committee members, prompting Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) to “take the unprecedented step” of writing weekly letters to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki detailing the number of outstanding requests and calling for “accurate information in satisfaction of these requests.”

In Warren’s response to the committee on Nov. 22, he wrote that "VA will continue to work to provide information that is responsive to the subcommittee's requests.” In November, sources within VA’s Office of Information Technology, where most of the questions were directed, told FCW that the congressional probing had caused a “stressed environment.”

The VA sources said only 20 of its 8,000 OIT employees were compiling responses, with one telling FCW it was like “another full-time job for a lot of folks,” though Congress has insisted the questions should be rudimentary for any large IT organization.

The Capitol Hill source told FCW that a recent internal memo authored by Warren asks VA OIT personnel to focus on four areas: system baseline practices and procedures, configuration management, patch management and elevated privilege review. That initiative drew limited praise from Miller, indicating VA likely has a long way to go before it rights the transparency ship with Congress.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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Reader comments

Thu, May 8, 2014 Ben Arizona SFC Army

The VA is a joke.. they have cancelled and rescheduled my appt twice now and then cancelled with a letter stating if this appt was important to call back and reschedule. I called several times and was told that they would contact me back. That was October last year.. I just received a call to schedule an appt but then now they wont answer or call me back to make that appt. I have been diagnosed with and being treated for PTSD and this is how important it is for them to continue treatment... what a joke.. you serve and go through what some of us have gone through and this is the thanks we get for our sacrifice and service...

Fri, Jan 24, 2014 Usmc Girl

Bob contact me on twitter. I think I can help you or steer you to some great lawyers. ☆usmc girl☆ handle @usmcgirl3381 I'm a VSO among other things. Hit me up I'll do what I can to help either tweet me or send it to my inbox ttys ☺

Fri, Jan 17, 2014 James Utah

The VA needs to be managed privately. They obviously cannot handle the volume of veterans. There are accountability and responsibility loop holes. Bonuses to the upper management should cease.

Fri, Jan 17, 2014 Bob Mason Ohio

No surprise the VA won't answer congressional oversight comittee, they won't answer veterans eithir or correct their lies and mistakes. Example, I have a foi request in since 2006 with the R/O cleveland, Ohio, still no response. The only time I get any response is when I file an email telling the VA I'm filing criminal charges against them. 18 USC 241 and 42 USC 199d. The vA retaliates by dening me services and tries again to dirty up my name, I've even had the VA HQ through their website email apologise for the wrong doings of the VA Hospital, but he VAH keeps messing with me. The VA has and always will be the enemy of veterans.

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 Toby J. Nolan

VA is above the Law, ever one should this.

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