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House reports no conflicts in issuing of VA contracts
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — A House inquiry has found no conflict of interest or improper influence in the awarding of multimillion-dollar contracts to a company headed by the former secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The investigations subcommittee of the House Veterans Affairs Committee said its inquiry — along with a review by the VA's Inspector General Counsel's office — concluded the contracts with QTC Management were properly awarded and in the agency's best interests.
QTC's board chairman is Anthony Principi, who served as the Veterans Affairs secretary from the first day of the Bush administration until early 2005.
He was president of the company, which conducts physicals on veterans seeking disability assistance, when he was tapped for the Cabinet position in late 2000.
The inquiry was initiated late last month after a Los Angeles Times story detailing the relationship between Principi and the company before and after his appointment as Veterans Affairs secretary.
Principi has stated that he recused himself from any involvement with the QTC contracts while he was secretary.
The Times reported QTC's annual business with the VA jumped from $8 million in 1998 to $69 million in 2005.
The company, based in Diamond Bar, Calif., became a VA contractor under a pilot program created by Congress authorizing private companies to perform physicals used to determine whether veterans qualified for disability payments.
Philip Plattner, a Seattle physician who first raised questions about the QTC contracts, said Friday he was one of the 24 persons interviewed in the subcommittee inquiry.
He and several other Washington state physicians who had worked for the VA were put out of work when QTC took over the disability exams in the region last year.
Plattner said the cost of disability exams more than doubled after the QTC takeover.
Plattner expressed doubts about the adequacy of the House inquiry, saying some of the questions he was asked by the subcommittee staff "appeared to be looking to excuse possible wrongdoing and to dismiss my concerns, instead of being geared toward doing a thorough and proper investigation."
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