Shinseki to testify on claims of cover-up in deaths of VA patients waiting for care

May 8

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki will testify next week about recent allegations that his department covered up treatment delays for patients who died while waiting for care, according to a congressional panel.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee scheduled the hearing for next Thursday, announcing the move shortly after the House Veterans Affairs Committee agreed unanimously Thursday to subpoena top VA officials for documents related to the growing controversy.

The decisions, which increase pressure on the VA to respond to the allegations, came three days after the American Legion called for Shinseki and two other key department officials to resign.

The House panel approved its motion in a unanimous voice vote, marking the first subpoena under the chairmanship of Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). “It is unfortunate that we have to come to this decision, but we did not do so without substantial justification,” Miller said before the vote.

The chairman said his staff contacted the VA’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs twice last week but got no response. He added that the department finally provided a response on Wednesday but the answers did not fully answer his questions.

Miller had demanded to know why the VA took eight days to order the preservation of all potential electronic and paper evidence of the alleged cover-up after he requested the action at an April 9 hearing.

The VA said it plans to review the subpoena and respond to it. The department added that it is conducting face-to-face audits nationwide at all clinics for every VA medical center.

Josh Hicks from the Federal Eye.

Coburn: Report shows Obama warnings on sequester wrong

Government-wide budget cuts last year caused only one layoff from the federal workforce, but they forced more than 770,000 employees to stay home without pay for up to a week and cut into assistance for the poor, according to a watchdog report.

An analysis by Congress’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said agencies minimized the effects of the so-called sequester by shifting funds to protect their highest priorities, in addition to pulling back on hiring, training and new investments.

On Thursday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) used the report, released in March, to criticize the Obama administration’s predictions about severe impacts from the $85.3 billion in cuts.

Coburn said in a statement that the findings are “devastating to the credibility of Washington politicians and administration officials who spent months — and millions of dollars — engaging in a coordinated multi-agency cabinet-level public relations campaign to scare the American people.”

The administration last year warned about broad impacts from the sequester, including a potential drop in economic activity that would lead to job losses and less hiring outside the government.

“There is no question that sequestration had a significant negative impact on the American people and our economy,” said Steve Posner, a spokesman for the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

Josh Hicks from the Federal Eye.

Guidelines aim to guard rights of immigrant schoolchildren

The Obama administration issued updated guidelines Thursday aimed at ensuring that public schools enroll undocumented immigrant children, saying the move was necessary to protect their rights under federal law.

“The Justice Department will do everything it can to make sure schools meet this obligation,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on a conference call with reporters.

In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that public elementary and secondary schools could not discriminate against students based on their immigration status or charge undocumented children more money for their education.

The new guidelines, which include examples of proper and improper enrollment practices, replace instructions issued by the departments of Justice and Education in 2011. Officials at the Office of Civil Rights said they have investigated 17 complaints in school districts in Washington, D.C., Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan and New Mexico. In Georgia, the Education Department evaluated the enrollment practices of 200 school districts, officials said.

“Sadly, too many schools and school districts are still denying rights,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said during the conference call. “Our message is simple: Let all children living in your district enroll in school.”

David Nakamura from Post Politics.

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