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Questions

Is VA focused on righting misdeeds?

On Monday, we Americans as a nation paused to say “thank you” to the approximately 21.3 million men and women among us who have served us in the armed forces.

We meant that, honestly and fervently. But we owe more than a single day a year to our veterans. For one thing, we owe them 365 days a year of reliable health care, should they need to seek it through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

About 9 million veterans do utilize health care at about 1,255 VA facilities, including 170 full-scale medical centers. Too often, they and their families are given reason to wonder just how dedicated we as a nation are to them.

Here in West Virginia, an ongoing scandal at the VA’s Louis A. Johnson Medical Center in Clarksburg raises questions that need to be answered.

It is known that some veterans checked into the Clarksburg hospital for treatment of relatively minor ailments — but died there after receiving injections of insulin they did not require. Some of their families have filed lawsuits over the deaths.

VA officials have been tight-lipped over the situation, revealing only that the “person of interest” in the fatalities no longer works at the hospital.

An attorney for some of the families has accused the VA of violating some of its own rules, including accessibility to stocks of insulin by hospital workers. The lawyer also has said the VA was too slow to react to suspicious deaths at the hospital.

Both U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., have demanded more accountability from the VA regarding the Clarksburg deaths.

And Capito recently called attention to another problem at some VA facilities: sexual harassment and assault. She noted there have been multiple reports of such misconduct at the Beckley VA facility, where one staff member was fired.

VA officials’ standard reaction to reports of improprieties at the agency’s health care facilities is that they are doing all they can to improve and are committed to giving veterans the best medical care. But in the past, on other issues including the notorious “wait-list” scandal, evidence has surfaced that some in the VA are more interested in covering up misdeeds than doing something about them.

Has that changed? This Veterans Day, the question still has to be asked. Members of Congress should make it a priority to insist the VA give the right answer.