The Columns

Michael Missal Confirmed as Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs

— by on April 21st, 2016

On Tues., April 19, the Senate unanimously confirmed Michael Missal, a 1978 graduate of Washington and Lee University, as the next inspector general of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs. President Barack Obama nominated Missal for the position in October 2015. He is scheduled to be sworn in on May 2.

Missal, a Washington attorney who specializes in government enforcement and internal investigations, was selected “because he has a distinguished legal background and a proven record of expertly leading prominent, sensitive and extensive investigations,” according to a White House official.

The post has been vacant since December 2013, occupied by interim inspectors general, while the agency suffered crisis after crisis. As USA Today reported on April 16, both Republicans and Democrats had put Missal’s confirmation on hold, citing problems at the VA they wanted addressed first, including employee accountability, construction overruns and benefits delivery.

During his Nov. 17, 2015, testimony before the Committee of Veterans’ Affairs, Missal noted, “This is a particularly critical time for the VA as it attempts to rebuild the trust and confidence it has lost from our Veterans, Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and the American public. The VA Inspector General plays a crucial and independent role in assisting the VA meet its mission and identifying the instances where it falls short. The need to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse and to promote efficiency and integrity at the VA may never have been greater. Recent public reports from the Office of Inspector General and elsewhere underscore the need for significant and prompt improvements in the way the VA is servicing our Veterans. If confirmed, I look forward to playing a role in strengthening the programs, policies and culture of the VA.”

In his testimony, Missal cited the important role that both military service and public service had played in the life of his late father, Harold Missal, a World War II veteran who fought in Europe and was later a state judge in Connecticut.

“ believed that there was no higher calling than being in public service and working hard to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Missal. “I started my legal career in public service and have always desired to return to it. I cannot imagine a more meaningful or important role than the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

After Tuesday’s voice-vote confirmation by the Senate, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said, “Michael Missal is the tip of the spear to restore much-needed transparency and accountability at the VA Office of Inspector General. His presence will go far toward accomplishing our shared goal of providing the highest quality care to our nation’s veterans.” Watch the video of Sen. Johnson’s remarks here.

Missal, a partner at K&L Gates, began his career as a staff assistant to President Jimmy Carter. He then clerked for chief judge H. Carl Moultrie, District of Columbia Superior Court, before serving as senior counsel for the Division of Enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

His extensive résumé includes an appointment by the Justice Department to examine negligence in the bankruptcy of subprime lender New Century Financial Corp. He served as lead counsel investigating the demise of WorldCom, the long-distance phone company. Missal also assisted the Senate Select Committee on Ethics during its investigation of former Sen. John Ensign of Nevada.

Missal has been an active volunteer for Washington and Lee. He served on his class reunion committee, as a career mentor, and for the Parents Leadership Council. He was elected to the Board of Trustees in February 2011 and was reelected to a second term in February 2016. Since the White House does not allow presidential appointees to serve on any public company or not-for-profit boards, Missal has resigned from the W&L board.

“We are proud of Mike for accepting such a challenging and critically important position,” said Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio. “At the same time, we are confident that he will fulfill his duties with expertise and integrity. Our country’s gain is the W&L board’s loss.”

Missal and his wife, Deborah, are the parents of son Jordan, a senior at W&L.