Top VA Health Nominee Withdraws Over Ties to Waiting-List Scandal

The decision follows reports tying the nominee to a hospital with alleged secret waiting lists.

National Journal
June 5, 2014, 11:55 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama’s nom­in­ee to be the top health of­fi­cial at the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs De­part­ment with­drew Thursday, his con­firm­a­tion chances severely com­prom­ised by po­ten­tial ties to the de­part­ment’s broad­er “wait­ing list” scan­dal

Re­ports have linked Jef­frey Mur­awsky — who was Obama’s choice to serve as the de­part­ment’s next un­der­sec­ret­ary for health — to an Illinois fa­cil­ity where staff al­legedly placed vet­er­ans on such secret wait­ing lists for med­ic­al ap­point­ments. He was also a phys­i­cian at the fa­cil­ity, and he tech­nic­ally re­mains on staff.

Mur­awsky asked the White House and Sloan Gib­son, the VA’s act­ing sec­ret­ary, to pull his nom­in­a­tion to be the de­part­ment’s next un­der­sec­ret­ary for health.

It’s the second loss for the de­part­ment in un­der a week, with Eric Shin­seki resign­ing as sec­ret­ary on Fri­day. A re­port from the VA’s in­spect­or gen­er­al re­leased last month found that “in­ap­pro­pri­ate schedul­ing prac­tices are a sys­tem­ic prob­lem na­tion­wide.”

Pres­id­ent Obama nom­in­ated Mur­awsky on May 1 to suc­ceed Robert Pet­zel, who was ex­pec­ted to re­tire later this year. But Pet­zel resigned ab­ruptly last month as the de­part­ment’s scan­dal con­tin­ued to grow.

“The pres­id­ent and Act­ing Sec­ret­ary [Sloan Gib­son] plan to move as quickly as pos­sible to fill the po­s­i­tion with the best pos­sible can­did­ate who can en­sure that our vet­er­ans get the care they have earned and de­serve,” a seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said, con­firm­ing Mur­awsky’s de­cision to with­draw — ori­gin­ally re­por­ted by the As­so­ci­ated Press.

Gib­son will ask a com­mis­sion to re­com­mend a new nom­in­ee for the Vet­er­ans Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mur­awsky’s de­cision comes as in­de­pend­ent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont un­veiled a bi­par­tis­an bill aimed at fix­ing many of the VA’s prob­lems. The le­gis­la­tion would make it easi­er for Gib­son to fire seni­or of­fi­cials, while also in­clud­ing — un­like a sim­il­ar bill passed by the House last week — one week for em­ploy­ees to ap­peal the de­cision.

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