, , ,

Tomah VA Whistleblower Calls On Obama To Appoint New Inspector General

Wisconsin's U.S. Senate Delegation Made Similar Request Recently

Rory O'Driscoll/La Crosse Tribune

A Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center whistleblower urged President Barack Obama to appoint a new independent watchdog for the VA during the president’s visit to La Crosse Thursday.

About two dozen people greeted President Obama at the La Crosse airport. Among them was former Tomah VA employee and whistleblower Ryan Honl. He and others have been critical of the VA inspector general’s investigations into the medical center’s prescription practices and culture of fear. The IG’s Office stands behind their findings.

Honl asked Obama to nominate a permanent inspector general from outside the VA. The president said due to federal regulations, someone needs to be nominated from within the VA.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Honl said that’s unfortunate.

“I think it would be much better for the agency if they got somebody in from the outside. There’s just too much cronyism,” he later said.

Honl said regardless, it was an honor to meet the president.

The VA’s Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin stepped down earlier this week. A spokeswoman from the IG’s office said they’re not involved in the nomination process and could not respond to questions on it.

Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin led the charge in sending a letter to Obama urging to him to appoint a permanent inspector general. Baldwin’s counterpart, Sen. Ron Johnson also signed the letter. They said someone who is nominated and confirmed is often seen as more independent and can provide stable leadership to the department.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said they’ll work to appoint a permanent VA inspector general, but that right now the administration is focused on the agency’s performance and making sure it’s living up to the expectations of veterans. He said Obama has confidence that VA Secretary Robert McDonald will bring reforms to improve the agency.