President Barack Obama’s nominee for Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general told a Senate panel Tuesday that improving the treatment of whistleblowers in the agency will be a top goal if he is confirmed.
The last acting IG was ousted in July amid whistleblower complaints that he whitewashed widespread wrongdoing in the VA. But nominee Michael Missal, a managing attorney at the private K Street law firm K&L Gates in Washington, D.C., testified to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that he will ensure whistleblowers who come forward in the troubled agency will have their identities concealed and be protected from reprisal.
Despite some questions about his experience, committee lawmakers gave Missal a warm reception. Sen. Johnny Isakson, (R-GA), said the committee will vote soon on passing along his nomination to the full Senate chamber for a final confirmation decision.
“If confirmed, one of my goals will be to promote an improved environment in which whistleblowers have confidence that their concerns will be fairly and effectively considered by the Office of Inspector General and that their identities will be protected from disclosure,” Missal testified.
Missal would fill a key position at the VA that has not been permanently filled for about 18 months. The new IG will be faced with investigating an agency with a history of widespread data manipulation, management relocation schemes used to skirt rules on pay raises and massive construction cost overruns.
“You have to have the integrity to stand up and say you won’t be influenced,” Missal said. “I take zero tolerance, I don’t even like the appearance of not being independent.”