Analysis of VA Investigations of Allegations Involving the Palo Alto VA Medical Center

HRD-80-106: Published: Aug 13, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 13, 1980.

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GAO monitored the Veterans Administration's (VA) Office of Inspector General investigation of allegations made concerning the Palo Alto VA Medical Center. The allegations involved significant increases in the rate of crime, widespread illegal drug use, inadequate support from local and Federal law enforcement agencies, interference by medical center officials in criminal investigations, and reprisals and threats against VA police officers making the allegations. Other allegations were made during the onsite investigation which began in December 1979. The Office of Inspector General completed its investigation on May 23, 1980 and issued a report on its findings.

GAO believed that most of the major allegations were only pursued in part by the Office of Inspector General. While specific incidents brought to its attention were addressed, the Office of Inspector General did not attempt to resolve the broader allegations. The allegation concerning the widespread illegal drug use was only briefly mentioned in the report. The Drug Enforcement Administration had investigated illegal drug activity at the medical center, but was unable to conclude that any widespread or significant activity existed, primarily because the VA police officers who had made the allegations could not substantiate them. The Office of Inspector General's report should have disclosed the findings and conclusions resulting from the Drug Enforcement Administration's investigation. The report did not reach conclusions on many allegations. On the basis of the report, GAO categorized the allegations as sustained, not sustained, or unresolved. Of the 37 allegations, 7 were sustained, 18 were not sustained, and 12 were unresolved. Further investigation of three of the unresolved allegations is warranted, namely the increased rate of crime at Palo Alto, an alleged $7 million coverup in the records of the Center's supply section, and the harassment of a VA police officer. As of July 1980, VA has not made any recommendations for corrective action. VA generally agreed with the GAO conclusions and analysis and has begun efforts to resolve the three allegations where GAO believed further investigation was warranted.

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