It may be that an end is coming to part of the saga of military veterans dying under suspicious circumstances at the government hospital in Clarksburg. Good. Justice needs to be done in the case.
But once that occurs, a more important — in the long term — process needs to begin.
Though some government officials had been aware of it for months prior to last August, it was only then that the public became aware of a truly frightening situation at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Clarksburg. Until a Charleston attorney representing the family of a veteran who died at the hospital came forward, suspicious deaths there had been kept under wraps.
Little by little since last August, information about more fatalities at the hospital has trickled out. Seven have been reported to date.
All may have been victims of someone on the hospital staff who gave them injections of insulin they did not require and which killed the men.
Both the VA and federal law enforcement officials have been tight-lipped about the investigation — though the agency quickly announced the “person of interest” in the probe no longer worked at the hospital.
It was reported this week that a federal grand jury in Clarksburg has begun looking at evidence in the case. U.S. Attorney Bill Powell, who oversees the Northern District of West Virginia, refused to confirm that, commenting only that “we’re going to do it the right way.”
As frustrating as that is for families of victims in the case — and for veterans worried about safety at the Clarksburg hospital — Powell is right to move carefully. If someone murdered the veterans, he or she needs to pay.
But once criminal proceedings in the case are completed, any need for secrecy about the situation disappears. At that point, the VA needs to explain how such a horror story could unfold at a government-run hospital.
Then, the agency needs to be able to reveal safeguards put in place to avoid any such fatalities in the future. We Americans owe that much to the men and women who have served us in the military.