WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act of 2021, introduced by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT) and John Boozman (R-AR), has unanimously passed the Senate.

The legislation was created to give the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) “the authority to subpoena testimony from former VA employees who have left federal service, former contractor personnel who performed work for the VA or other potentially relevant individuals during the course of its inspections, reviews and investigations.”

“West Virginia Veterans have experienced the horrific impacts of top-down VA leadership failures, resulting in the tragic deaths of seven Veterans at the Clarksburg VA Medical Center,” Senator Manchin said. “The OIG currently does not have testimonial subpoena powers, which resulted in the OIG having limited authority during the Clarksburg VAMC investigation. Our bipartisan legislation addresses this oversight by granting the OIG the authority to conduct thorough investigations.”

“We’ve got to see to it that the VA Office of Inspector General has the tools to provide additional oversight over the Department on behalf of veterans and taxpayers,” Senator Tester said. “The Senate’s unanimous passage of our bipartisan bill means we’re one step closer to providing this important watchdog with greater ability to detect fraud, abuse and waste at all levels, and I encourage my House colleagues to pass it without delay.”

“Expanding the VA OIG’s authority so it can conduct more thorough investigations will improve transparency and accountability, ensuring our veterans get the care and services they have earned,” Senator Boozman said.

Currently, the law does not allow the VA OIG to compel individuals to answer questions in person and under oath.

This legislation comes after last year’s events where a report from the VA OIG documented an incident at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia where a former VA nursing assistant was convicted of seven counts of murder and one count of assault with the intent to commit murder of Veterans receiving care at the facility.

The VA OIG noted that the lack of testimonial subpoena authority inhibited their ability to review the incident. The report also mentioned at least five other investigations since 2017 that the VA OIG struggled to look over without this authority.

“The VFW believes the OIG performs a critical role in overseeing and investigating the practices of VA, and a vital component of this role is currently lacking,” said Pat Murray, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Legislative Director. “The Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act of 2021 would provide the OIG a missing tool in its toolbox to properly ensure that office can oversee the department more effectively.”

“The Project On Government Oversight is proud to support the Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act of 2021,” said Liz Hempowicz, Project On Government Oversight’s Director of Public Policy.“This bill will dramatically improve oversight at the VA by eliminating a longstanding loophole that allows VA employees to escape independent oversight by simply resigning from their post. This is not a reform in search of a problem – but a well thought through solution to an obvious problem.”

The full text of the legislation is available here.