Dave Mistich Published

West Virginia Congressional Delegation Applauds VA Health Care Facility Transparency Bill

Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center

Congress has finished work on a bill that would provide greater transparency at veterans hospitals across the nation. The legislation came after a string of murders at a West Virginia veterans medical facility.

On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed The Improving Safety and Security for Veterans Act of 2019. The legislation will require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to submit detailed reports on patient safety and quality of care at VA Medical Centers.

The bill, which passed the Senate in December 2019, now heads to the president for a signature. The measure was introduced in the Senate by Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito.

The two senators from West Virginia issued statements Tuesday in a joint news release from Manchin’s office.

“We have faced issues of transparency surrounding the murder of at least seven veterans at the Clarksburg VAMC, resulting in a lack of confidence in the VA,” Manchin said in statement. “I can’t imagine having a loved one murdered while in the VA’s care and after almost two years still not knowing the full picture.”

Former nursing assistant Reta Mays pleaded guilty in June to seven counts of murder that stretched over the course of years. She admitted to injecting veterans with unneeded insulin at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.

“The horrifying murders at the Clarksburg VAMC were a gruesome wakeup call underscoring the need for a more thorough look at security systems and procedures across the VAMC system,” Capito said. “This bill is a step forward to help ensure our veterans are protected and safely cared for while in VA hands.”

The three other members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation — Reps. David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller — also issued statements Tuesday on the passage of the bill as part of the news release from Manchin’s office.

“We cannot begin to understand the grief and anger of the families whose loved ones were killed at the Clarksburg VA,” McKinley said.

When federal prosecutors struck a plea deal with Mays over the killings, they said that the former nursing assistant had betrayed the trust of the veterans and their families.

“Those who served our nation in the military deserve not only our utmost respect, but also our continued care once they leave military service,” Mooney said. “The murder of at least seven veterans at the Clarksburg VA should never be allowed to happen again.”

The Improving Safety and Security for Veterans Act of 2019 will also force the VA to submit a detailed report and a timeline of events surrounding the deaths at the Clarksburg facility once criminal investigations are complete.

“As an original cosponsor of this legislation, I am glad that Congress was able to come together to bring necessary change and oversight of our VA Medical Centers in order to ensure that our veterans have confidence in the quality of health care they deserve,” Miller said.

Mays, who will be sentenced in February, has yet to explain her motive for the killings.