By Martin Matishak - 05/30/14 01:13 PM EDT
The leaders of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee on Friday asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of wrongdoing at Veterans Affairs hospitals nationwide.
“We request that the Department of Justice immediately begin appropriate criminal and civil investigations into allegations that the VA falsified patient records at one or more of the VA’s 150 medical centers and 820 community outpatient clinics,” Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and top Republican Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
The request came less than an hour after President Obama announced he had accepted the resignation of embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. An initial report from the VA’s inspector general found widespread misconduct, with falsified wait lists “across the country.”
Mikulski and Shelby follow a number of their colleagues who have also called for law enforcement agencies to investigate the scandal, which some charge led to patient deaths at facilities. The interim report from the inspector general said that any evidence of criminal or civil violations would be handed over to authorities.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) earlier this week asked the administration to greenlight the DOJ to independently look into allegations of systemic fraud in the VA medical system.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has urged Obama to order the FBI to examine the matter.
Mikulski and Shelby also vowed to provide resources for the DOJ to conduct an investigation as heads of the Appropriations subcommittee on justice, which holds the DOJ’s purse strings.
The subcommittee is due to mark up its fiscal 2015 spending legislation next week.
The bill they offer will “provide the resources needed for criminal and civil investigations into allegations that the VA falsified patient records at centers and clinics across the country,” the lawmakers said in a statement.
“This scandal has dragged on over a decade,” they added. We believe the Department of Justice should begin investigations right away.”
The House on Wednesday approved an amendment to its version of the subpanel's appropriations bill that would allot $1 million in additional funding for investigation into the alleged VA mismanagement.
The proposal, introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) would be paid for by cutting funds meant for the DOJ’s general administration salaries and expenses account.