Obama names new watchdog at VA

Michael Missal, a D.C. insider with years of experience in governance and investigations, would take over the troubled Office of Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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President Barack Obama on Oct. 2 named Michael J. Missal to take over the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Missal, a partner at the Washington, D.C., firm of K&L Gates, has experience conducting internal investigations on behalf of corporate clients, including firms in financial services, government contracting, and technology. He assisted in the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee investigation of former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), and was the top lawyer on the independent review panel that examined claims by the TV program "60 Minutes" about former President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard.

The VA Office of Inspector General has been without a Senate-confirmed head since January 2014. Recent acting director Richard Griffin stepped down in July, in the wake of criticism that he whitewashed internal probes of agency personnel, particularly in the investigations arising from whistleblower allegations of tampering with scheduling software at VA medical centers.

Linda Halliday currently leads the department as Deputy IG.

In a Sept. 22 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, three whistleblowers alleged retaliation and intimidation by OIG investigators.

"For far too long, the VA OIG's lack of permanent leadership has compromised veteran care, fostered a culture of whistleblower retaliation within the agency, and compromised the independence of the VA's chief watchdog," committee chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a statement regarding the nomination. "Since January, I have been calling on President Obama to appoint a permanent VA inspector general, and I am pleased that he finally has nominated one today."

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