Pittsburgh VA spending taxpayer money on TV ads

Much of the criticism of the VA has centered on Michael Moreland, who heads the VA healthcare system in western Pennsylvania.

He is front and center in a series of television spots aired by the VA, and that does not sit well with the daughter of a Legionnaires' victim.

The ads portray veterans looking for help and include an appearance by Moreland.

"At VA Healthcare you're never alone. VA Healthcare. Not just first class, world class," Moreland says.

When Maureen Ciarolla saw the ads, she could not believe it.

"This is ridiculous. You can't write this stuff in Hollywood. They would reject it saying it's too outrageous," Ciarolla said.

Her father, John Ciarolla, died two years ago. He was the first Legionnaires’ victim at the Pittsburgh VA.

A report by the VA Inspector General faulted Moreland and other VA administrators for failing to take quick action to prevent other deaths.

"They've lied to veterans' families and they've betrayed veterans. I hardly think that's a world-class health system," Ciarolla said.

Van Osdol asked the VA why they were airing the ads.

VA spokesman David Cowgill responded with a prepared statement that they wanted to make newer veterans aware of VA services so they "made a strategic decision to purchase air time from WTAE to assure dissemination in the Pittsburgh market."

He refused to talk on camera, So Van Osdol tried talking to another VA spokesman.

Van Osdol: "Why is the VA running spots on TV?"

VA spokesman Keith Gottschalk: "I can't talk about it. I'm not authorized to talk about the spots."

Van Osdol: "There's criticism from the daughter of one of the Legionnaires’ victims about these spots. Is that a concern?"

Gottschalk: "You know I understand that, we really understand that, we feel very deeply about that, but furthermore I can't really say anything guys."

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., who helped lead the investigation of the VA, said he was disturbed to see Moreland acting as the VA's pitchman.

"Is it helping veterans with treatment or is it helping someone else with their tarnished image?" said Murphy. "And that question is enough to say I don't think they should be doing these commercials."

"The veterans know their hospitals are there. That's about improving their image, nothing else but improving their image," Ciarolla said.

Murphy said it is important for the VA to tell veterans about their services, but they should use a fellow veteran as a spokesperson, not a VA bureaucrat.

The VA inspector general is still conducting a criminal investigation to see whether VA officials deliberately misled investigators probing the Legionnaires' outbreak.

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