A Congressional committee has begun a probe of VA’s failed health research program, according to news from the Austin American-Statesman newspaper that helps show the critically important role of the media in holding VA accountable. [Austin American-Statesman, “Congress to probe VA research after Austin Statesman investigation,” Jeremy Schwartz reporting, Friday, October 17, 2014]
According to the Statesman article:
A 10-month Statesman investigation into the Waco Center of Excellence’s brain imaging program found that the VA squandered millions of dollars and six years of research opportunity just as brain injuries were spiking among U.S. service members.
The newspaper found the VA purchased a once-cutting edge $3.6 million mobile MRI scanner in 2008 without a clear plan for success, was unable to recruit enough brain imaging experts and was paralyzed by internal squabbles.
On occasion, critics have accused the VA of covering up research that might show links between deployments and medical problems. In 2012, a VA research advisory committee accused VA researchers of of failing to “mount even a minimally effective program” to study Gulf War illness, vastly overstating the amount spent to study the illnesses affecting Gulf War veterans and misrepresenting the state of scientific knowledge regarding Gulf War veterans’ health.
Yet compared to the VA’s medical and disability benefits branches, which have been beset by numerous scandals in recent years and months, the research arm has received relatively little scrutiny.
U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Waco, told the Statesman Friday that it’s time for “a broad discussion on the role of the VA in health care research” and said staffers with the House Committee on Veterans Affairs would begin scheduling a series of hearings on issues at the Waco center and beyond in early 2015.
The newspaper promised more coverage is to follow.
Read the full Austin American-Statesman article here: