FOIA Update
April 19, 2024

WASHINGTON – Empower Oversight has confirmed through additional video that Veterans Affairs (VA) Undersecretary for Health Dr. Shareef Elnahal has made comments at multiple town halls downplaying the opportunities available for veterans to obtain community care, expressly against the wishes of Congress.

Empower previously released a two-minute clip of Elnahal’s remarks at an August 31, 2023 VA employee town halls that it had obtained from a whistleblower. The remarks expressed a clear commitment to avoid giving veterans the opportunity for community care, despite congressional intent after unacceptable wait times for care in the Veterans Affairs Health Care system.

Now, Empower Oversight obtained the full video of an August 8, 2023 town hall with Elnahal, found here, through a Freedom of Information Act request. It shows that Elnahal made the exact same remarks about community care on this other occasion, and they were not taken out of context as implied by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough.

The comments raise particular questions in light of news reports earlier this year about the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracting with the VA to pay for the community care of undocumented immigrants.  

The full August 8, 2023, town-hall meeting can be found here.

The original 2-minute video from the August 31, 2023 town hall can be found here.

The McDonough audio can be found here.

The Jan. 18, 2024, letter to McDonough can be found here.

*Release is updated to show the videos are from two separate town hall meetings.