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VA official retiring after disease outbreak at hospital

A Department of Veterans Affairs official, who oversaw a Pittsburgh VA hospital investigated after at least five people died following an outbreak of a rare disease, has announced he is retiring.

Michael Moreland, a regional VA director overseeing hospitals in Pittsburgh, other parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware, will be retiring on Nov. 1, 2013, he told his staff in an internal email.

Though Moreland seemed to hint at the prospects of retirement in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette just days ago, congressional sources said his retirement is unexpected and most likely the result of the media firestorm suggesting that the Legionella outbreak at the Pittsburgh VA hospital in 2011 could have been prevented.

Moreland did not return a request for comment questioning whether or not his retirement had to do with claims that the Legionella outbreak was mishandled.

CNBC first reported on problems at the hospital in early September. (Read more: Rare disease at hospital raises concerns about VA health care).

Legionella is a bacteria found in water that can cause Legionnaires' disease if it is untreated. Legionnaire's disease is curable, but could prove fatal if treatment is not administered in time. At least five veterans died from the disease at that VA Hospital.

A patient find his room at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital.
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A patient find his room at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital.

Moreland also received the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award earlier this year, much to the chagrin of the families of victims who died of Legionnaire's disease.

In the email to VA employees Friday, Moreland wrote, "I am deeply proud our Network provides the highest level of care available in any health care system in the nation, private sector included."

Results of water sample tests conducted in early September show that Legionella was still present in at least one of the faucets on a patient care floor, among many other issues at the Pittsburgh VA hospital.

"Michael Moreland is the poster child for the widespread and systemic lack of accountability throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs," said the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Jeff Miller. "His arrogance and insensitivity throughout the entire Legionnaires' disease tragedy was incredibly hurtful to the families of those who died and absolutely shocking to all veterans and taxpayers familiar with the ordeal. Moreland's absolute refusal to take any responsibility whatsoever for five preventable veteran deaths that he oversaw has tarnished his legacy of more than 30 years of government service and badly damaged the reputation of the department as a whole."

—By CNBC's Dina Gusovsky and Jeff Pohlman. Follow her on Twitter @DinaGusovsky.

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