September 09, 2021

Moulton Statement on the Inspector General Report into the Disappearance and Death of Veteran Tim White

WASHINGTON — Today, following the release of the Office of Inspector General report into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and death of veteran Tim White on the campus of the Bedford VA Medical Center, Representative Seth Moulton released the following statement: 

Tim White deserved better from the country than dying alone in a stairwell. His life might have been saved if the Bedford VA Police Department did its job. 

After Mr. White’s disappearance, my team and I took action.

Step one was demanding this OIG investigation and informing the OIG’s inspectors at the outset of this report. We asked for recommendations that will fix the breakdown between the VA Police and local police departments that allowed the VA Police to escape accountability for locating Mr. White. We also asked the OIG to investigate the repeated failure of leadership at the VA Police Department in Bedford that contributed to this incident. Most importantly, we wanted to get to the bottom of why it took weeks to locate Mr. White.

After all the finger-pointing that took place in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, we learned today that the VA Police was ultimately accountable for failing to find Mr. White. Though it is true the building was run by Caritas, a nonprofit, the location is on VA property where the VA Police is fully responsible for public safety.

Now we know, and it is on the federal government to fix this problem.

In the fall of 2019, after Congressional pressure and a prior OIG report on VA Police failures around the nation, the VA announced reforms to the VA Police department. It is clear that those changes are not enough.

In the time between the DA’s report and the OIG report, my team and I have been working on legislation and policy changes that would provide local police departments with the lead investigatory authority on VA campuses when lives are on the line. I also believe the federal government should fund local police investigations on VA campuses.

When the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dennis McDonough, took office, my team raised our concerns about the VA Police Department with his team. I have confidence in their commitment to reform. It is a notable departure from the Trump Administration’s slow-rolling of many long-needed changes. Secretary McDonough will have my full, continued support in reforming the VA police department.

Reform efforts regarding the VA Police are complicated by the fact that VA facilities are federal property. I will continue exploring legislation, but I believe that the VA can also fix this problem with a complete overhaul of the VA Police Department and by implementing the recommendations this report makes. That overhaul should start at the Bedford VA, and it must start today. I depend on the Bedford VA myself. 

America’s veterans deserve the best healthcare in the world. Mr. White’s care didn’t come close. In the days ahead, we must demand that the VA Police department changes so that our country keeps its promises to those who have served.”

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Background:

The VA's Office of Inspector General is an independent watchdog that conducts routine and special investigations into the VA system. The Inspector General conducted the investigation that led to this report at the request of Congressman Moulton and other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation. The report offers seven recommendations to make sure that something like this never happens again. The VA has accepted all seven recommendations, which means the VA will implement all seven changes to national policy as a result of the investigation. Three of the recommendations will result in changes to how VA police departments operate nationwide. The rest of the recommendations change how VA health care staff interact with nonprofits and other organizations that lease spaces on VA property. Congressman Moulton supports all seven recommendations. 


The Inspector General will post the report here.