Robert Hurt: We must restore a culture of service at the VA

Robert_HurtLast month, an audit of VA health facilities found that more than 57,000 veterans are still waiting for their first appointment.  The House of Representatives has taken swift action to address the root of the ongoing problems within the VA system of care by initiating congressional oversight hearings to delve into the issues and move legislative solutions forward.

To address these glaring problems, the House passed H.R. 4810, the Veteran Access to Care Act, with a unanimous, bipartisan 426-0 vote.  This bill directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to contract with private health care providers to allow veterans who have experienced excessively long wait times or live over 40 miles from a VA medical facility to see physicians outside the VA system.  The Senate followed our lead and passed a similar bill.  House and Senate leaders have been negotiating to reconcile the differences between the two bills, and news reports indicate that they have hammered out a final version for House and Senate consideration.  I look forward to reviewing the final package and hope that we can work in a bipartisan, bicameral way to advance the vital reforms our veterans need and deserve.

The House adopted another important measure, H.R. 4031, the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act, with a bipartisan vote of 390-33.  At present, removal of a senior executive based upon poor performance is a lengthy and cumbersome process that frustrates efforts to hold underperforming leaders accountable for their failings.  This measure would address the severe mismanagement at the VA by allowing for easier removal of ineffective senior level officials at the agency.

Finally, the House has passed the Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act (H.R. 2072) to make several reforms to ensure the VA is more accountable to the Office of the Inspector General (IG), which has made over 1,000 recommendations to the agency that have been ignored.   For example, if the VA has not appropriately responded to a report issued by the IG, Congress would be notified and, within the next 15 days, the VA Secretary would be required to provide a list of those responsible for the issues cited in the report.

The problems within the VA are the result of a broken system, and these proposals are an important part of the effort to meaningfully and structurally reform the delivery of care to our veterans.  But we will not be successful in this mission unless we also continue to demand accountability and change from the VA so it returns to a culture of duty and service rather than one of bureaucracy and paper-pushing.  If we remain dedicated to the solemn obligations we owe to the men and women that have given life and limb for our nation, we can provide a level of care and service worthy of the tremendous sacrifice our veterans made for the cause of freedom.

If you need any additional information, please visit my website at hurt.house.gov or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.

Robert Hurt represents the Fifth District in Congress.

         
 

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