Murphy seeks reversal of bonus given to Pittsburgh VA leaders during Legionnaires' outbreak

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After U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki defended a regional director in the wake of the recent Legionnaires' outbreak, U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy on Thursday asked that all bonuses paid to local VA leaders be rescinded.

Mr. Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, sent Mr. Shinseki a letter making the request after Mr. Shinseki defended regional VA director Michael Moreland last month, saying Mr. Moreland "is an outstanding professional who continuously demonstrates strength, commitment, integrity, and a relentless commitment to public service."

Mr. Murphy and Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, had written Mr. Shinseki earlier asking why Mr. Moreland and others received bonuses in the thousands of dollars each even as the Legionnaires' outbreak was ongoing in 2011 and 2012.

"In your reply," Mr. Murphy wrote Mr. Shinseki on Thursday, referring to the July letter, "you stated the VA 'can and will do more to prevent future incidences.' While preventing the spread of infectious diseases should be a top priority for VA leadership, the department must also hold responsible those in a position of authority who did not adhere to the VA's own directives and standards of care. And at the very least, the taxpayers should not be giving them bonuses."

In the final report on the outbreak at the Pittsburgh VA, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found at least 16 veterans were possibly or definitely infected with the disease during stays at the Pittsburgh VA and five more veterans died.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported two weeks ago that a sixth veteran also may have died after contracting Legionnaires' at the VA.

Mr. Murphy included a list of all six men's names in his letter to Mr. Shinseki, writing: "It is in the memory of these veterans that I am writing to you today."

In the wake of the Post-Gazette's finding, U.S. Sen Bob Casey, D-Pa., last week asked the CDC to review all of the possible 2011 and 2012 Legionnaires' cases at the Pittsburgh VA again, to ensure the CDC's initial findings were accurate.

In addition to asking Mr. Shinseki to rescind bonuses to the leadership at the Pittsburgh VA, Mr. Murphy asked that Mr. Shinseki tell him within 10 business days "whether there have been any suspensions, sanctions or firings of individuals who contributed to the failures that led to the November 2012 outbreak. The review is not over; our congressional investigations continue."

breaking - region - electionspa - health

Sean D. Hamill: shamill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2579. First Published August 8, 2013 4:45 PM


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