What to Know
- A relative of the veteran said she reported the man missing when he didn't return from an appointment at the medical center May 15.
- The veteran’s sister said she searched the parking lot herself after the VA medical center failed multiple requests to find the man.
- The House Committee on VA investigated the incident but is dissatisfied with information provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs said he’s ordering a series of formal reviews of the Washington DC VA Medical Center in the wake of reports by the News4 I-Team.
Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said he asked the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to turn over information about the recent death of a veteran in the medical center’s parking lot.
Roe said his committee also is reviewing a recent decision to transfer the former director of the troubled medical center to a new, high-ranking position at agency headquarters.
Last week, the News4 I-Team reported the discovery of the body of a military veteran in a car outside the medical center earlier this month. It is suspected the man went undiscovered for almost two days.
A relative of the veteran said she reported the man missing when he failed to return from an appointment at the medical center May 15. The man’s body wasn’t found until May 17, she said, and was only discovered by the man’s sister. The veteran’s sister said she searched the parking lot herself after the VA medical center failed multiple requests to find the man.
A police report obtained by the I-Team said the veteran was found “slumped over” and unconscious in a vehicle at the medical center’s parking lot. The large DC VA Medical Center, which sits along Irving Street near North Capitol Street, has a large open-air parking lot near its main entrance.
Roe said his committee has investigated the incident but is dissatisfied with information provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“(They) didn’t explain who was responsible, who should have looked for this,” Roe said. “We haven’t heard anything about the cause of death yet.”
The medical center’s acting medical director said the death and “lag in time” in finding the veteran are under investigation.
The medical center was already under scrutiny because of a scathing report released by internal investigators with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General. Federal inspectors found the medical center suffered shortages of key supplies, some of which forced procedures to be delayed and required medical staff to borrow supplies, including bloodlines and surgical pieces, to treat patients, the report said.
Longtime medical center director Brian Hawkins was removed from his position hours after the release of the inspector general report.
Last week, the I-Team revealed Hawkins was not fired but was moved to an administrative position at agency headquarters. The agency said it recommended a disciplinary action against Hawkins Friday, days after being contacted by the I-Team about Hawkins' employment. But the agency declined multiple requests to specify the nature of the discipline he faces.
Roe said his committee is formally seeking records from the agency about Hawkins.
In a formal statement, the Department of Veterans Affairs said issues raised by the inspector general audit have been rectified.
“Processes are now in place to ensure that providers have the appropriate supplies they need to treat our patients safely and effectively,” the statement said. “All equipment and supplies that were subject to recall in the past 12 months have been removed from stock. This was completed approximately two weeks ago. The facility is now in normal maintenance mode to scan for equipment subject to recall.”
The inspector general review of the medical center complex is not yet complete. The report released in April was an “interim” report, alerting officials about preliminary findings in a longer review. Further reports from the inspector general are expected.
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.