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Kathy Castor tells VA Secretary that latest reported problems are “unacceptable”

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Tampa/St. Pete Congresswoman Kathy Castor has become just the latest member of Congress to blast the persistent problems with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Listing three major problems that have surfaced in the news recently, the lawmaker has penned a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, where she states that, “the VA has not met its responsibility to our veterans on a number of fronts. Veterans’ personal information has not been safeguarded with requisite care, our veterans have been forced into excessive and damaging backlog wait times for far too long, and retaliations have been made by the VA against whistleblowers for highlighting inappropriate behavior. I respectfully request that the problems and concerns be addressed immediately.”

A new Department of Veterans Affairs report said that veterans at the St. Petersburg Regional Office waited longer in 2014 because claims materials weren’t prepared properly. It also found that personal information was inadequately stored at a contractor scanning center, posing a risk of identity theft.

“This is unacceptable and must be addressed immediately,” Castor writes.

The Congresswoman also cited a recent ProPublica report that found that employees and contractors at VA medical centers, clinics, pharmacies and benefit centers commit thousands of privacy violations each year and have racked up more than 10,000 such incidents since 2011.

And she also noted that VA investigators have found that two senior managers retaliated against whistleblowers who reported dangers to patient care and financial mismanagement at the Phoenix, Arizona hospital at the center of the nationwide scandal over falsified waiting lists that broke in 2014. She’s asking for an update on that situation.

Criticism of what’s been happening at the Veterans Administration over the past few years has been a bipartisan affair, with Republicans often being less reserved in expressing their anger.

Castor’s Republican colleague from across the bay, David Jolly, has been a constant critic of what’s been happening at the VA since being elected to office nearly two years ago.

It was reported earlier this week that McDonald intends to visit the Tampa Bay area soon to meet up with USF President Judy Genshaft regarding how to accommodate veterans with mental health issues and criminal records. Castor signs off on her note by saying that she’d like to meet up with the VA Secretary when he’s in town.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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