December 19, 2018

Warren, Schatz Renew Call for VA Inspector General Investigation of "Mar-a-Lago Cronies'" Undue Influence over Dept. of Veterans Affairs Decisions

Letter Follows New Reports of Trio's Widespread Interference in VA Contracting and Budgeting

Text of the Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) sent a letter to the Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reiterate their request for an investigation of the alleged interference by three members of President Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in decision-making at the VA.  The letter, which follows a recent new report on the scope of undue influence on VA contracting and budgeting by Mr. Ike Perlmutter, Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, and Mr. Marc Sherman, follows a similar request made by the senators in August 2018.

The new report published by ProPublica this month revealed more disturbing details on the scope of the influence  that Mr. Perlmutter, Dr. Moskowitz, and Mr. Sherman, each a member of President Trump's Mar-a-Lago's private club, have wielded over decision-making related to the VA.  According to the reports, the "Mar-a-Lago cronies" were significantly involved in a "multibillion-dollar effort to overhaul electronic health records for millions of veterans," which included reviewing a confidential draft of a $10 billion government contract for the electronic-records project and attempting to persuade the VA and Apple to accept Dr. Moskowitz's app to carry out the project - even though it largely replicated the VA's existing tools and "VA officials identified major problems with the app's usability and functionality."

Senators Warren and Schatz initially requested an investigation by the VA Inspector General and Government Accountability Office (GAO) in August when ProPublica first reported on this matter. Last month, the GAO announced that it had accepted the senators' request for an investigation into the Mar-a-Lago trio's interference in VA decision-making, but the IG declined to open an investigation, informing the senators that it would "continue monitoring the situation" and that "as more information becomes available, we will determine the need to take action." 

In their letter to VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal, Senators Warren and Schatz cited the recent ProPublica report and repeated their request for the IG to investigate the undue influence of these unqualified and unaccountable private citizens over VA decisions.

"We believe this new information detailing the Mar-a-Lago trio's access to, and pernicious influence on, key VA functions should compel your office to reconsider," the senators wrote in their letter. "The VA is supposed serve the health care needs of America's veterans - not the business interests of President Trump's Mar-a-Lago cronies."

The senators' letter also noted that while the GAO has agreed to investigate the matter, the VA Inspector General may also conduct its own parallel investigation due to its detailed knowledge of the VA, and access to documents, personnel, and other sources of agency information that may not otherwise be available to GAO.