In a radio interview, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee revealed that his staff members were spied on by the Veterans Benefits Administration when they attempted to investigate patient care problems at its Philadelphia office.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., whose committee has been holding hearings into malfeasance and intimidation of whistleblowers at the Veterans Affairs Department, told WMAL
radio in Washington that when his staff members began to examine records, they were directed three times into a specific video conferencing room where "both of the mikes were hot and the camera itself was activated," The Daily Caller
"It makes you wonder if they weren't preparing to monitor them as they went through and reviewed files."
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Miller's staff photographed the cameras and microphones and, he told WMAL, a yellow legal pad on which acting regional director Diana Rubens had written two of the whistleblowers' names and "that they should ignore my congressional staff."
Later, VA officials explained they meant that staffers should ignore what others said about the committee investigators, but Miller told WMAL, "The fact is that they got caught in a bold-faced lie and they should be more than embarrassed.
"All this does is show that there is a culture within the department that will stonewall the constitutionally obligated body, Congress, from being able to do the oversight work that we are trying to do, just so they can protect the status quo."
Miller's hearings have been contentious, with seven whistleblowers from the VA testifying as to the treatment they received after objecting to the way the agency was treating veterans.
Kristen Ruell, authorization quality services representative at the VBA in Philadelphia, told the committee she tried to call her bosses' attention to improper shredding of documents under way, but, "Instead of solving problems, I was retaliated against. VA's problems are the result of morally bankrupt managers," according to ABC News.
Miller agreed, telling WMAL that while most VBA employees are hardworking individuals, "this mid-level management layer is there to stonewall at every turn."
Clearly embarrassed, VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey told the committee, "What occurred was not acceptable and not indicative in normal ways of which Ms. Rubens would behave. I offer my sincere apologies to your staff and my commitment that it will not happen again. You'll receive anything you need."
Miller responded, "What we all want to see, both my Republican and Democrat colleagues, is progress — not deception."
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