Investigators have finished a probe expected to identify the employees responsible for pervasive problems at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs benefits office, but say they aren't releasing the findings while the agency is considering disciplinary action.
VA officials on Monday said the report, completed last Tuesday, is being withheld to protect the due process rights of the employees involved.
"Decisions on each issue, including any appropriate disciplinary actions, will be made in accordance with applicable due process procedures," VA spokesman James Hutton said in a statement.
The report is expected to identify misconduct at the root of problems that have long plagued the Germantown facility. Critics have faulted the agency for being slow to hold employees accountable.
The office, which oversees benefits for 825,000 veterans in eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware, has been cited as the most troubled in the VA system. An April report from the VA's Office of Inspector General detailed widespread issues, including manipulated claims, ignored veteran inquiries, and a toxic relationship between staff and management.
Following that report, VA officials declined to comment on potential disciplinary actions, citing the ongoing review by a VA investigative board.
Several members of Congress on Monday said they had expected to receive that board's report when it was completed last week. Rep. Ryan Costello, a Republican whose district includes Chester County, said he was still waiting.
"I'm trying to hold fire here, because if they are undertaking a process that is thorough, that is comprehensive, and that is going to lead to accountability of individuals who are culpable . . . I understand that they have to go through that process," Costello said. "I say that, and I am a little frustrated."
Hutton said the VA would be able to release the report to Congress once disciplinary actions, if any, are taken. He said doing so beforehand would "adversely impact VA's ability to sustain the actions" if the employees were to appeal.
He did not say if the report would be released publicly, and did not respond to an Inquirer request for more information.
Kristen Ruell, a whistle-blower from the office, criticized the VA's decision to withhold the report, noting that VA officials have said 90 percent of the office's problems have already been addressed.
"I just think they're stalling and trying to buy time for these people. But why would you want to?" Ruell said Monday. "Why wouldn't you want to address it?"