Our Veterans Deserve Reform at the VA

Last year, Congress gave the VA Secretary new authority to fire employees. But while some 110 VA facilities kept secret lists to hide wait times – just ONE person has been fired. What the hell happened to the rest of them?

Posted by Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Last week, Speaker Boehner took to the House floor to blast the culture of arrogance at the VA “that allows our veterans to be lied to, ignored, and, frankly, left to die.”  He reiterated the need for the president to put forth a real, long-term plan for fixing the VA – “not a promise, or a pledge, or a rearranging of deck chairs – a real plan to clean up this mess” – and said he would keep the heat on the administration until they produce one.  Several recent stories underscore the widespread mismanagement veterans continue to face across the nation:

  • “From Medical Malpractice & Patient Safety Concerns to Mismanagement, Infighting & Corruption” “More than 120 previously unpublished investigations by the Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general, dating as far back as 2006, reveal problems at VA medical centers nationwide ranging from medical malpractice and patient safety concerns to mismanagement, infighting and corruption.” (Military Times)
  • “One Veteran’s Face Was Set on Fire During an Operation in Lebanon, Pa.” “The cases range from missed diagnoses to failures during surgery — one veteran’s face was set on fire  during an operation in Lebanon, Pa. — and from misuse of funds to personnel issues — an intensive care unit at the Tucson VA was beset by a ‘cauldron of interpersonal tensions and management difficulties,’ the inspector general found.  The range of outcomes in the newly released reports indicate the inspector general may have lacked a uniform standard for deciding when to issue public findings. Roughly 50 reports dismissed allegations of wrongdoing, but more of them — 59 — contained substantiated claims.” (USA Today)
  • “More Than 10,000 Disability Claims Back Logged at Veterans Affairs” “Vietnam Vet dies waiting on military benefits after Agent Orange exposure … This is exactly what so many Vietnam vets fear dying before their benefits kick in. … His appeal had waited behind some newer Iraq and Afghanistan vets and the more than 10,000 disability claims back logged at Veterans Affairs. His wife, Marie, told WREG they just finished filling out final documents for him to receive 100% disability just hours before Hines passed away.  ‘The country has deserted our Vietnam vets. Their spouses too. Their families,’ his wife told WREG last week.” (WREG)
  • “It Hurts Me Because the Flag That I Fought For, I Cried For, I Bled For, It Doesn’t Matter to Them” “Veterans are waiting years for their injury claims to be answered by the VA. When they do get answers, those answers are often no. These are problems the Veterans Administration says they’ve been fixing these past two years. … But Sergeant Creamer’s disability claim was already rejected by the VA despite his local doctor’s medical opinion. The VA tells 10 Investigates they consider Sergeant Creamer’s back injury ‘age related.’ But two numbers may conflict with that judgement. Creamer is 45 years old but dropped more than 380 feet in the helicopter crash.  Sergeant Creamer has a medal to show for his injuries, and a cane. ‘It hurts me because the flag that I fought for, I cried for, I bled for, it doesn’t matter to them,’ said Creamer.” (WBNS-10TV)
  • “Neglected Veteran Benefits Claims, Tampered with Quality-Control Measures & Allowed Tens of Thousands of Benefits Inquiries to Go Unanswered for Months” “An investigation at the Philadelphia regional office of the Department of Veterans Affairs benefits division showed employees neglected veteran benefits claims, tampered with quality-control measures and allowed tens of thousands of benefits inquiries to go unanswered for months, an internal watchdog report found.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • “At Least Half of the Department’s 10 Worst-Performing Regional Offices Had Falsified Information About Patients’ Waiting Times or Committed Similar Offenses” “New evidence of mismanagement and delays in veterans’ healthcare has piled up, nearly a year since President Obama vowed to clean up arguably the most beleaguered department in his administration. … Perhaps the most worrying sign to lawmakers is that problems similar to those unveiled in Phoenix have mushroomed to other areas of the country.  The VA’s inspector general found in April that at least half of the department’s 10 worst-performing regional offices had falsified information about patients’ waiting times or committed similar offenses.” (Washington Examiner)
  • “Reports That Rodents & Insects Have Infested Some of the VA Facilities” “Despite promises made by the new Director Robert McDonald, there have been very few noticeable improvements in medical care, and in some areas the situation has become even worse.  Claims are still being ignored, medical records and appointment books continue to be manipulated, there are numerous cost overruns, and reports that rodents and insects have infested some of the VA facilities.” (Lebanon Daily Record)
  • “VA Has & Continues to Waste Millions of Dollars” “The Department of Veterans Affairs has been spending at least $6 billion a year in violation of federal contracting rules to pay for medical care and supplies, wasting taxpayer money and putting veterans at risk, according to an internal memo written by the agency’s senior official for procurement. … ‘Doors are swung wide open for fraud, waste and abuse,’ he [Jan Frye, Deputy Assistant Secretary and Senior Procurement Executive, Office of Acquisition and Logistics, Department of Veterans Affairs] writes in the March memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post. He adds, ‘I can state without reservation that VA has and continues to waste millions of dollars by paying excessive prices for goods and services due to breaches of Federal laws.’” (Washington Post)
  • “No Clear Estimate of the Millions of Dollars Wasted in the Multi-Billion Dollar Programs” “Moreover, the use of so-called purchase cards by the VA - meant for minor purchases up to $3,000 - were used to buy billions of dollars of medical supplies without contracts. One VA investigator told the subcommittee that employees bypass the regulations because it was the easier course. There’s no clear estimate of the millions of dollars wasted in the multi-billion dollar programs. The VA tried to prevent Frye from testifying, said the subcommittee chairman, Republican Mike Coffman of Colorado. He chided VA officials for those attempts.” (NPR)

It has been a year since President Obama pledged to clean up the mess at the Veterans Administration and “do right by our veterans across the board.”  He has yet to fulfill that commitment, and our veterans continue paying the price for the president’s failure to put forth a real, long-term plan for fixing the VA.

It has been a year since President Obama pledged to clean up the mess at the Veterans Administration and “do right by our veterans across the board.” He should keep that promise.

Posted by Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday, May 27, 2015