VA Watchdog Subpoenas Advocacy Group

Veterans Affairs acting Inspector General Richard Griffin Veterans Affairs acting Inspector General Richard Griffin Cliff Owen/AP

The Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general, whose reports on apparent misreporting of veterans waiting times at medical centers triggered the current scandal, has subpoenaed a whistleblower advocacy group for records on reported abuses at VA facilities.

The nonprofit Project on Government Oversight declined to cooperate with the May 30 demand. In a letter sent to the IG on Monday, POGO said the subpoena infringes on the group’s constitutional “freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of association rights as they relate to all whistleblowers and sources.”

Just as the VA controversy was breaking, POGO on May 15 announced it was teaming up with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to launch a whistleblower website called VAOversight.org. It has since received 700 reports of alleged mismanagement at VA medical centers, POGO reported, a fourth of which are from current or former VA staff. The remainder are from veterans, family members or friends of veterans, a POGO spokesman said.

The letter from acting VA Inspector General Richard Griffin demanded “all records POGO has received from current or former employees” of the VA, veterans and other individuals or entities relating to wait times, access to care, or scheduling issues at any VA facility.

Providing legal citations backing its position, POGO also noted that it promised confidentiality to those who made reports to its website pending POGO’s own investigations, and that many of the people who made reports had also reported their complaints to the IG’s office.

“The inspector general’s demand stands opposed to POGO’s mission and to good government reform -- both of which serve the public interest,” said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian, who signed the letter with POGO General Counsel Scott Amey. “Our focus is squarely on investigating the problems in the VA healthcare system and trying to find some solutions.”

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