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Conference Report Provides for our Veterans

August 4, 2014
Weekly Columns

There is no obligation more sacred than to provide for our service members and their families, both during and after service to their country. Many return from war forever changed, sometimes with both physical and psychological challenges. Especially when these veteran heroes require special care, they should never receive less than the best treatment. As a grateful nation, we owe them that debt for their selfless sacrifice and service.

Today, there are more than 1.4 million service members on active duty and 21 million veterans living in the United States. Following their service, our veterans should feel confident that the health services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the best care available. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead, thousands of veterans seeking care through VA health clinics and facilities have been neglected, due to internal mismanagement. 

In one such example, a facility in Phoenix, AZ was found to have falsified records to hide actual wait times that veterans were forced to endure. Similar problems abounded across the country and revealed that many veterans waited weeks to even get an appointment. Many of them were still waiting or hadn’t even been put on a waiting list after requesting an appointment. 

Both Republicans and Democrats agree that we should take care of our veterans; that is an important commitment that we will always share. When we were confronted by the outrageous treatment of our veterans due to the VA’s internal negligence and mismanagement, lawmakers quickly worked together to find an immediate fix that would prevent future problems. Last week, both chambers agreed on the VA conference committee’s report and passed it with a strong show of bipartisanship. The legislation has been sent to the president for his signature.

The Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act includes $10 billion for the Veterans Choice Fund, $5 billion for improving the internal medical force at the VA and $1.5 billion to start up 27 new VA clinics, including one in Tulsa. In addition to passage of the conference report, a new VA secretary was confirmed and sworn in last week to lead the department out of corruption. Robert McDonald served in the United States Army before spending decades at Proctor & Gamble, including the roles of Chairman, President and CEO. I am optimistic that his military and management background will serve the department well, helping ensure that veterans get the care they need when they need it.     

By putting new accountability measures in place, increasing the VA medical force and speeding up the process for those veterans who have been waiting, I believe we are on the right track to solving the issues that have put our veterans at risk.

In midst of controversy, it is nice to see both parties unite with urgency to protect the benefits earned by veterans through their proven valor.