WASHINGTON, DC -- In this week’s Republican address, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) outlines immediate and long-term steps the president can take to fix the problems at the VA. House Republican leaders outlined these steps in a letter to the president earlier this week. Miller delivers the address from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing room where, as chairman, he has been a leader of the House’s efforts to investigate and address the delays in care that have led to the deaths of at least 23 veterans.
KEY QUOTE: “This is the biggest health care scandal in the VA’s history, and America deserves to know whether the president is committed to doing whatever it takes to make things right. … So while the House and Senate work together to address these crises, we will also hold the president accountable. You have our word on that.”
Remarks of House Committee on Veterans Affairs' Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL)
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Hearing Room
June 7, 2014
On this weekend when we honor the 70th anniversary of D-Day, we are even more mindful of all we owe our veterans.
That’s why what’s been happening at the VA hits so close to home.
Americans are, at our core, a grateful people. We reject the idea of letting our own people down.
To see all this deception and incompetence at the VA – with no accountability, no action: it is more than just a shame; it's a national disgrace.
This week, we asked the president to take three immediate steps.
First, we asked the president to support a bill the House has already passed that makes it easier to fire senior VA executives who refuse to do their jobs. No more slaps on the wrist. The only right those who contributed to this scandal should have is the right to be shown the door.
Second, we asked the president to order the VA to fully cooperate with the committees that are investigating this matter. Now the VA is currently sitting on 111 requests from our committee alone. It’s become a case study in how to stonewall the public, and this has to change.
And third, we asked the president to back reforms that would require the department to offer private care to any veteran faced with the prospect of unacceptable waits for treatment.
Let me illustrate why this is so important.
Two months ago, right here in the hearing room of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, we heard the testimony of Barry Coates.
Barry is an army veteran who went to the VA in the fall of 2010 complaining of severe abdominal pain.
He was prescribed basic pain medication while a colonoscopy was delayed and delayed again.
More than a year later, when the test was finally done, doctors discovered stage four cancer.
A proper exam, the doctors told him, would have prompted treatment sooner.
“Due to the inadequate and lack of follow up care I received,” he told us, “I stand before you terminally ill.”
But there's more.
At that same hearing, a senior VA official confirmed that the agency had the authority to send patients like Barry Coates to private care.
When the VA allows at least 23 veterans to die when it should have done more … when we hear reports of mismanagement everywhere from Dallas to Dayton, from Chumuckla to Chicago… we know this is not a storm that will just blow over. The underlying culture of corruption will still be there.
This is why there’s one more thing we’ve asked the president to do. And that is to outline for America’s veterans and American taxpayers a long-term vision for fixing what is clearly a broken system.
This is the biggest health care scandal in the VA’s history, and America deserves to know whether the president is committed to doing whatever it takes to make things right. You deserve to know whether he will personally step in and see this through.
So while the House and Senate work together to address these crises, we will also hold the president accountable.
You have our word on that.
And to every courageous whistleblower and veteran who has brought all of this to light, you have my thanks for speaking out and sharing your stories.
Together, we cannot fail.
And together, we will honor the spirit of those who stormed the beaches of Normandy and the memory of those who never returned.