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What's happening now: Grassley on the VA scandal, cannabis oil

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has a question and answer session with employees from Miller Products Thursday, May 29.
OST photo by AMY HANSEN Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has a question and answer session with employees from Miller Products Thursday, May 29.

What does Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, think about some of the major state and nationwide events that are currently happening?

The Osceola Sentinel-Tribune had an opportunity to have a one-on-one interview with Grassley before he toured Miller Products in Osceola this morning.

Cannabis oil

When it comes to Gov. Terry Branstand signing a bill Friday for the use of cannabis oil in Iowa, Grassley said the governor had to make his own personal decision about signing the bill.

“For me, medicinal marijuana would be a situation I would turn over to the Food and Drug Administration, and have them make a decision based upon that medicine the same as they do all medicine from two standpoints — is it effective and is it safe? And, I would want to have the FDA approval of that,” Grassley said.

The Medical Cannabidiol Act allows neurologists from Iowa to prescribe up to 32 ounces of the oil to help patients who have epilepsy. It is commonly thought the drug can help people who have seizures better than traditional prescription medications.

However, people with prescriptions will still have to go outside of the state to obtain the cannabis oil.

VA scandal

An issue that's being played out on the national stage is the scandal with Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals.

The scandal, which first came to the spotlight in Phoenix, Ariz., is about numerous veterans allegedly being put on "secret waiting lists" and dying while waiting to receive their treatment and hospital care.

“I think that you’re going to find a great change in the VA, probably from the standpoint of being able to fire people easier," Grassley said. "I hope (for) more protection for whistleblowers because I have a reputation for whistleblower protection, because I think there’s where you get a lot of information. Members of Congress have a constitutional responsibility to not just pass laws or appropriate money, but to make sure that the president forcefully, faithfully executes those laws and spends the money according to Congressional intent. And, I think whistleblowers know whether that’s being done.”

'Skunks at a picnic'

Grassley said he hopes there’s more encouragement of whistleblowing, not just in the VA, but throughout the entire government.

“Because whistleblowers are kind of considered like skunks at a picnic, you know? They aren’t welcome," Grassley said. "Because there’s a great deal of peer pressure to go along to get along within a bureaucracy.”

Grassley said he hopes a policy that will be used more is when treatment can’t be received at a VA facility, that there will be more opportunities for those veterans to go to a private sector facility or professional outside the VA system.

Many people in Congress are calling for the resignation of Gen. Eric Shinseki, the United States VA secretary.

Grassley was asked his thoughts about whether Shinseki should resign.

“My feelings are to wait until the Congressional investigation is done, the IG’s (inspector general) investigation is done, and then make a decision,” he said.

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