FOIA Update
March 24, 2022

WASHINGTON —After the Veterans Administration Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) released its report entitled, “Former Education Service Executive Violated Ethics Rules and Her Duty to Cooperate Fully with the OIG,” Empower Oversight Founder and President Jason Foster issued the following statement:

“Today’s report is long overdue. These conflicts were an open secret in the VA for years. Supervisors knew. The VA-OIG knew. But, the whistleblowers were ignored until Senator Chuck Grassley started asking questions. Veterans deserve better than bureaucrats who abuse public service to feather their own nests. It should not take prodding from a sitting U.S. Senator to kick the watchdog into gear, but that is exactly what happened here. Whistleblower warnings should have led to action sooner.

“The VA-OIG should not have limited the scope of its inquiry to just one client of the VA official’s spouse. Still, at least the basic facts have been established even in the absence of full accountability. It’s an all-too-familiar DC story. Just as the watchdogs get going, the bureaucrats resign. And, because Congress still has not given inspectors general the authority to force former government employees to testify, the public is left without the whole picture.

“Where is the accountability for the supervisors who tolerated the blatant conflicts outlined in this report for years?”

In August 2021, Empower Oversight filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request with the VA and VA-OIG seeking information as to why the VA was ignoring congressional requests for information on conflicts of interests involving a then-VA official responsible for GI Bill benefits, and her husband.

In September 2021, Empower Oversight issued a 19-page research paper entitled, “Did the Department of Veterans Affairs Enable Insider Trading?” exploring allegations about the leaking of non-public information about a market-moving enforcement announcement involving GI Bill benefits.

In November 2021, Empower Oversight released a copy of the VA’s draft reply, obtained through FOIA, to Senator Chuck Grassley’s April 2021 letter asking about these issues. The FOIA copy showed that the agency had gathered the answers to the Senators questions, but it withheld those answers from the Senate, never transmitted the letter, and redacted those answers on the copy provided through FOIA.

Empower Oversight has appealed the VA’s redactions of those answers and other information that do not appear to be exempt from disclosure under FOIA. Those appeals are still pending.

If you have first-hand information you’d like to disclose to Empower Oversight with these inquiries, please contact us confidentially here.