Senators' VA demands are proof watchdog approach works

With so many high-profile politicians expressing misgivings about media, it’s good to see U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst haven’t hesitated to pounce on news reports of continued trouble within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Grassley and Ernst, both Republicans, recently issued a joint statement, saying they’ve received assurances from the Trump administration that individuals responsible for unauthorized waiting lists at the Omaha VA facility will be held accountable. The senators met with Tom Bowman, deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs, after an investigative report by The Omaha World-Herald showed unauthorized waiting lists have been an ongoing concern since 2006.

“The VA has pledged to provide documentation on the disciplinary action taken against each of the culpable employees,” the senators reported. “The VA has also committed to issuing further guidance to make it absolutely clear that unofficial wait lists are not permissible.”

Within hours of a USA Today investigation of questionable hiring practices at the VA, which highlighted a doctor with a history of malpractice claims and license revocation in another state briefly employed by the VA hospital in Iowa City, Grassley and Ernst demanded more information. At least one Iowa veteran died following brain surgery performed by this doctor.

The senators’ joint letter to David Shulkin, secretary of Veterans Affairs, quotes from the news investigation and includes a list of information and documents the VA must produce.

Such demands are hardly historical outliers within the long-standing symbiotic relationship that exists between elected officials and media, but our current political climate makes them far more notable.

Grassley and Ernst have repeatedly researched and investigated media claims regarding the VA and other government agencies. Iowans and the nation have come to rely on such a joint, watchdog approach to wasteful government spending and disrespect of military men and women.

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“Veterans who receive care through the VA deserve the highest standard of care available,” write the senators. We agree.

All political rhetoric aside, the common goal of serving the public isn’t a partisan issue. It’s important the relationship between elected officials and members of the media remains active and valued.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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