The inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs has concluded that there was gross mismanagement at three or more VA program offices when current VA Secretary David Shulkin was serving as undersecretary under former President Barack Obama in 2015 and 2016, The Associated Press reports. "Failed leadership at multiple levels within VA put patients and assets at the DC VA Medical Center at unnecessary risk and resulted in a breakdown of core services," said VA inspector general Michael Missal. "It created a climate of complacency."
The Washington D.C. VA Medical Center is the VA's second largest department, and the center of the inspector general's report. Missal and his team found "poor accounting procedures leading to taxpayer waste, citing at least $92 million in overpriced medical supplies, along with a threat of data breaches as reams of patients' sensitive health information sat in 1,300 unsecured boxes," AP writes.
Shulkin told investigators that he couldn't recall ever being told about the problems, and blamed a failure of the "usual" communication process. The review did conclude that "there was no finding of patient harm" due to the deficiencies, "largely due to the efforts of many dedicated health-care providers." The report also credits improvements at the Washington medical center following adjustments made by Shulkin, after an initial report about the problems came out in April.
The inspector general nevertheless blamed an "unwillingness or inability of leaders to take responsibility for the effectiveness of their programs and operations." The report comes as Shulkin is already in hot water, with the VA chief of staff apparently having doctored an email and made false statements in order to use taxpayer money to cover the overseas expenses of Shulkin's wife.