WASHINGTON: Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) launched a microsite this week designed to highlight what he calls the Department of Veterans Affairs’ lack of cooperation with the media.
The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs launched the VA Honesty Project on Monday. The portal is "designed to highlight the Department of Veterans Affairs’ lack of transparency with the press, and by extension, the public," according to a statement from Miller’s office.
The VA Honesty Project chronicled nearly 70 recent occasions on which the VA either failed to respond to reporters’ requests for comment or refused to answer specific questions.
Examples listed on the portal include tactics such as changing the subject, hanging up on inquiring reporters, or simply not responding. The page pulls quotes from stories that reflect several publications’ interactions with the VA, including from the first few months of 2014.
The list includes examples of unresponsiveness by the government agency from stories in the International Business Times, CNBC, and NBC Memphis, among others.
Miller contended in a statement that the VA is taxpayer-funded and therefore has a responsibility to explain itself to the press and the public, adding that the department has 54 full-time public affairs employees.
The VA responded via an emailed statement about the website, saying that it strives "to provide accurate and timely information as we communicate every day with America’s veterans, their families, their survivors, and the American people."
"We understand and respect the media’s important role, and we work to ensure veterans understand our commitment to provide them the services and benefits they have earned and deserve," the department said. "[The] public affairs office at VA headquarters responds to thousands of media queries each year, and constantly strives to improve to provide reliable information quickly."
The VA office of public affairs is not working with an outside agency on an at-large, AOR basis, though it has worked with firms in the past on a contractual basis, mostly out of the National Veterans’ Outreach Initiative Office, said Meagan Lutz, public affairs specialist.