After a two-year wait, VA gets a new top watchdog

Senators confirmed Michael Missal to be the new inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs late Tuesday, giving the often embattled agency a top watchdog for the first time in 28 months.

The evening voice vote came without any discussion or objection. It ends a confirmation process of more than six months for Missal, who drew praise from senators for his background but saw his nomination held up over a series of largely unrelated VA concerns.

Missal has previously worked as a senior counsel at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and has extensive experience withas an official on congressional and federal investigations.

During his confirmation hearing in November, he promised to focus on both on issues of fraud and abuse but also "integrity at VA," given years of scandals and public missteps by the department.

Earlier on Tuesday, House Veterans Affairs Committee members questioned why some veterans still face long waits and access problems for medical care, nearly two years after those issues forced the resignation of then VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

VA leaders in recent months have also repeatedly sparred with lawmakers over issues of employee accountability, construction overruns and benefits delivery.

Meanwhile, the VA Inspector General's office — operating without a permanent head since December 2013 — has fielded criticism from Congress for working too closely with VA leaders, and from VA leaders for what they see as exaggerations of minor issues.

Missal will step into that fight right away.

White House officials said after his nomination that Missal was picked for the post due to his "proven record of expertly leading prominent, sensitive, and extensive investigations."

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at

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