Congressman ‘shocked, outraged’ by Statesman report on Temple VA abuses


Highlights

VA investigators detailed years of abuse of veterans undergoing substance abuse treatment and job training.

Investigation also targeted $1.2 million of VA spending that was funneled through a small business in Killeen.

U.S. Rep. John Carter sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Director David Shulkin on Monday demanding answers regarding findings of abuse of veterans, equipment theft, abuse of power and possible financial crimes at the VA’s Temple campus.

On Sunday, the American-Statesman detailed the results of an internal investigation into issues with the Temple VA’s motor pool and grounds crew, as investigators reported years of mistreatment of veterans undergoing substance abuse treatment, as well a “complex scheme” to profit from fraudulent purchase orders and questionable contracts.

READ: Investigation finds corruption, intimidation at Temple VA campus

Veterans in the VA’s Compensated Work Therapy program described being sent to the homes of high-ranking VA officials to perform landscaping work. They also reported being forced to do odd jobs for supervisors and members of their family on the Temple campus, such as car washing and auto repair, during work hours.

According to an administrative board’s preliminary report, which was obtained by the Statesman, employees at the motor pool had funneled business to a small Killeen firm that investigators said made at least $400,000 by padding purchases with 30 percent surcharges. In all, the report found, more than $1.3 million was “funneled through” the business, Whitetail Industrial Parts and Service, in recent years.

Phone and Facebook messages sent to Whitetail owner Jeff Pearson were not returned.

“I am shocked, outraged, and exasperated to hear of these issues, and I expect the VA to work quickly to right the wrongs done to our heroes,” Carter, a Round Rock Republican who represents the Temple area, wrote in a letter to VA Director David Shulkin and VA Inspector General Michael Missal. “According to media reports, many of the veterans that were subjected to this behavior were participating in a substance abuse rehabilitation program, and trying their best to get their lives back on track, only to be mistreated by the very people meant to help them. It is inexcusable.”

Carter demanded the VA send him a copy of a “comprehensive final report” on the situation in Temple promptly, as well as a full briefing on “the VA’s plan of action to right the wrongs done to our veterans.”

Carter also praised the actions of newly appointed Central Texas top administrator Christopher Sandles, who launched the internal investigation shortly after hearing of complaints at the motor pool earlier this year.

“However, I must express my exasperation and outrage at the continuing problems plaguing our VA system, especially as it pertains to serving the veterans of the Central Texas area,” Carter wrote.

Two Temple VA employees no longer work at the VA after the internal investigation and local officials say the VA’s inspector general is investigating allegations involving financial misdeeds that could result in criminal charges.

One VA employee, Oarrin Nash, the motor pool supervisor, has confirmed in an interview with the Statesman that he was fired. Nash denied any wrongdoing and said he had no knowledge of financial activities regarding Whitetail.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Traffic report for Monday, Sept. 24, 2018

Interstate 35 (Hays County): Slow moving striping work crews in both directions between RM 150 and Robert S. Light Boulevard from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights Interstate 35 (Travis County): Alternating closures on the frontage roads in both directions between Slaughter Lane and Williamson Creek from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through...
Community news: Austin Energy hosts small business open house Tuesday

TRAVIS COUNTY SOUTH AUSTIN Small business open house Tuesday Austin Energy will host an open house for small business owners from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Tuesday at Austin Energy’s Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Road. The free open house will allow business owners to exchange information, meet with staff and learn how to effectively partner with...
Cruz gets O’Rourke where he wants him — on a debate stage
Cruz gets O’Rourke where he wants him — on a debate stage

For the first time in his re-election campaign, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, right where he wanted him Friday night — on a debate stage confined behind a lectern and constricted by 90-second answers, 60-second responses and 30-second rebuttals. It forced O’Rourke to confront Cruz...
Heavy rains lead to flooding, rescues in Williamson, Travis counties
Heavy rains lead to flooding, rescues in Williamson, Travis counties

Authorities rescued dozens of people in Williamson and Travis counties early Saturday after thunderstorms hammered Central Texas, dropping nearly 10 inches of rain in some spots and causing flash floods, road closures and power outages. Approximately 90 people were forced to evacuate the Rio de Colores wedding venue in Liberty Hill as waters rose to...
TEXAS DIGEST: Funeral held for 4th victim of serial killings

LAREDO Funeral held for serial killings victim About 150 people gathered at a Texas church for the funeral of one of the four women who authorities say were killed by a Border Patrol agent they’ve described as a serial killer. Saturday’s funeral for 35-year-old Guiselda Alicia Cantu at a Catholic church in Laredo is the last of the memorial...
More Stories