White House promises action on VA inspector general

White House officials say they do plan to fill the vacant inspector general post in the Veterans Affairs Department, promising that the Obama administration is committed to strong oversight of every federal agency.

The VA's watchdog office has been without a permanent leader for more than 18 months, after former Inspector General George Opfer retired from the job. Last month, Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin retired after 43 years of federal service.

That move promoted Assistant Inspector for Audits Linda Halliday to deputy inspector general and the default head of the office. Just days before Griffin's retirement, a group of senators petitioned Obama for a permanent replacement, citing the need for management stability and strong leadership in the office.

Administration officials would not offer a public timeline for when a new inspector general would be nominated, but said work is underway.

"This administration has been committed to strong Inspectors General," a White House statement read. "The administration also believes strongly in transparency and accountability in government, and inspectors general play a critical role in furthering those objectives."

Officials offered no reasons for the lengthy delay in filling the post.

Griffin and the VA inspector general office have come under fire in recent months from critics who say there is too close a relationship between IG investigators and VA officials.

They've also been criticized over not doing enough to prevent the 2014 patient wait time scandals, as well as failing to uncover similar systemic problems that have made headlines in recent months.

But in his departure announcement, Griffin praised his office's work in recent years, citing nearly 2,000 reports since 2009 that have lead to more than 11,000 punitive actions against individuals and $22.5 billion in "monetary impact" for the department.

Once selected by Obama, the new inspector general nominee would need Senate confirmation before assuming the role. If a candidate is not selected before Congress leaves for its planned August recess, that would mean at least several more months of waiting for a permanent replacement.

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