Louisiana Delegation Aims To Get VA Hospital Director Fired
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana's congressional delegation — with the exception of U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy — issued a strongly worded letter opposing the appointment of an embattled official to oversee veterans hospitals in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
The delegation asked Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to rescind the appointment of Skye McDougall and even called her assignment "an insult to Louisiana veterans."
She has come under fire for her testimony before Congress last year. Critics allege she testified that wait times at VA facilities she oversaw in southern California averaged four days when in fact they were at least 10 times longer.
The letter, dated Jan. 22, was released Wednesday. Mississippi's delegation made similar objections in December.
McDougall recently took over as the director of the South Central VA Health Care Network, a position overseeing numerous veterans facilities.
"Frankly, her appointment … is an insult to Louisiana veterans," the letter said.
The letter said that on March 13, 2015, McDougall "lied under oath" when she testified at the House Committee on Veterans Affairs about wait times.
The delegation also said it had concerns that she was assigned to oversee the South Central VA Network only after "stiff Congressional and public opposition" impeded her appointment to head a similar network in the Southwest.
The congressional delegation cited "an extreme backlog" in processing medical claims in the South Central system as a reason to appoint a different director.
"We need an honest, reliable leader to take the helm," the letter said.
In a statement Wednesday, the VA said it "is in receipt of the letter and will respond to the Congressional members' offices."
Cassidy, a Republican senator, didn't sign the letter because he does not think she should be removed, said Jillian Rogers, a Cassidy spokeswoman. She said in a statement that Cassidy met with McDougall recently and "they had an open and frank discussion."
She added that the senator "hopes that Ms. McDougall's forthrightness in their meeting continues as they work together to reform a broken VA system."
– by AP Reporter Cain Burdeau