DOJ Won’t Prosecute Vet Affairs Criminal Referrals

Rejects cases for ‘lack of criminal intent,’ recommends ‘administrative action’

Veterans Psychiatric Care
VA Medical Center / AP

The Veterans Affairs Inspector General referred at least 17 cases tied to allegations of wait-time manipulation to the Department of Justice for prosecution, and the agency has declined to prosecute all of them. Both agencies have refused to comment on the reasons behind the lack of prosecutions.

But according to a list obtained by the Washington Free Beacon from a source close to the House committee investigating the VA’s conduct, the most common reason given for the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) denial was that the referred cases involved lacked evidence of criminal intent.

At least two cases were declined, in part, because they were deemed as "best resolved through administrative actions" or "declined in lieu of administrative remedies."

In others there was reportedly insufficient evidence of criminal misconduct.

The VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has acknowledged that there are ongoing criminal investigations at 93 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities, and that number has been public since June. Officials with the OIG have also made reference to it in various hearings in the House and Senate.

However, beyond that, the OIG has provided little information on the status of the investigations, despite repeated request from the House Veteran Affairs Committee, and they have declined or ignored similar press inquires.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R., Co.), the chairman of the House Veteran Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, made a formal request to the VA Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin on Aug. 27.

In the letter, Coffman requested that Griffin "indicate how many criminal investigations have been referred to a United States’ Attorney’s Office or to any other component of the Department of Justice for prosecution," and asked that Griffin "also indicate how many of the cases were declined for prosecution."

Griffin’s response came on Sept. 12 and said that "currently, 17 cases have been declined for prosecution by the responsible Office of the United States Attorney," but that questions about the details of those declined cases would need to be answered by the Department of Justice.

According to the documents viewed by the Free Beacon, the inspector general received explanations behind each of the denials from the DOJ and then gave that information to committee staffers. But sources on the committee say they have yet to receive any information regarding the total number of cases that the VA referred for prosecution.

At least seventeen cases were referred and declined, but the statuses of the other seventy-six are unknown.

"The committee has asked VA OIG for that info, but has not received it," a staffer explained, adding that the agency has "not briefed anyone from [the House Veteran Affairs Committee] on the 93 investigations and has not released a list of facilities that are under investigation."

A spokesperson for the DOJ declined to confirm the contents of the list, but in a previous correspondence said that "the guidelines for why a referral might be declined is covered in the U.S. Attorney’s Manual."

The Free Beacon reached out to the VA’s Office of Inspector General on Oct. 14 and spoke with congressional relations officer Catherine Gromek asking for information on how many of the 93 ongoing investigations were referred to the DOJ and how many were declined or accepted. Gromek asked that the request be sent through email, and one was sent shortly after the phone call.

Later that day, the Free Beacon emailed Gromek to confirm that she received the request. "I got it," Gromek wrote. "What is your deadline—this is not my only request."

The email was the last response the Free Beacon received from Gromek. Subsequent phone calls and emails went unanswered.

The Department of Justice told the Free Beacon in an email that their prosecutors are "coordinating with the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General as it conducts its ongoing review," but declined to comment on the referrals because the investigations are incomplete.

"We'll decline to comment on an ongoing matter," wrote DOJ spokesman Peter Carr, "but in general the department often consults with inspectors general on legal matters and acts on any referrals should they find sufficient predicate for a criminal investigation."

The VA Office of Inspector General did not respond to additional request for comments by press time.