WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House passed two pieces of VA reform legislation. The VA Accountability Act of 2015 passed with a vote of 256 – 170. The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 passed with a vote of 385 – 34. Chairman Miller released the following statement:
“I applaud my colleagues for stepping up today to address the troubling lack of accountability eroding VA’s ability to care for our veterans. The VA Accountability Act will provide the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs the ability to make real reforms and bring much needed accountability to the department. Today, we stand with our veterans because the status quo has failed them and the American people for far too long.
“Just over two weeks ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that because of its inability to budget, VA hospitals around the country would be shutting down in August. Today, the House passed the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 to ensure that does not happen. The bill is designed to rescue a mismanaged VA, providing the resources to keep the doors open, expanding access and choice to veterans and setting the stage to consolidate VA’s uncoordinated and wasteful non-VA care programs into the Veterans Choice Program.
“I urge the Senate to take up both these measures immediately. We cannot allow VA’s incompetence to continue to harm America’s veterans. And I sincerely ask President Obama to sign both in to law – to take the money without the accountability will only lead to continued failure.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, 62 years after the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953, Chairman Jeff Miller and Ranking Member Corrine Brown led a bipartisan delegation from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
“As Congress prepares to return to our home districts for the August recess, we remember the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have served our nation in uniform, especially on this day, the 62nd anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement. The committee members and I lay this wreath in honor of the 36,000 Americans who gave their lives in support of combat operations on the Korean peninsula, and the over 7,000 American military personnel still missing. The willingness of our veterans to sacrifice in the name of freedom has made our Nation the greatest on Earth, and Korean War veterans are a shining example of this uniquely American devotion to defending liberty around the globe.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
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Fix the VA, Mr. President
Only presidential leadership can end years of mismanagement
By Jeff Miller
July 21, 2015
The Department of Veterans Affairs has threatened to shut down hospitals in August unless it receives a budget add-on of $3 billion.
The VA released this shocking news this month, capping off years of mismanagement and a blatant lack of transparency and accountability. The department can’t seem to meet any of its vital responsibilities — providing health care, approving disability benefits and constructing hospitals — without going billions over budget and falling years behind schedule.
It is long past time for President Barack Obama to become personally engaged in fixing VA.
The embattled VA is trying to blame Congress for its latest budget crisis, despite attempts to evade congressional oversight every step of the way. In March, the VA reported it was running under budget for the year. Secretary Robert A. McDonald testified four times this year without mentioning a massive shortfall.
In June, the VA requested permission to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted for medical care to pay for a bungled construction project in Denver (itself a billion-dollar debacle that the VA denied for years until held to account in court).
I called a June 25 hearing on the VA budget after receiving conflicting reports from VA employees. Only then did the department finally disclose a $2.6 billion shortfall, claiming that without more resources it would start denying health-care referrals to non-VA facilities in August. Just two weeks later, the VA said it needed $3 billion or it would suspend all non-VA referrals at the end of July and begin shutting down hospitals next month. This is not the first time the VA has disclosed problems far too late, turning mismanagement into a fiscal emergency.
The brave men and women who served our nation must not be penalized for the VA’s failures, so once again Congress must prevent VA incompetence from harming veterans.
The list of failures is long and proves the VA’s problems are systemic. More than a year after 110 facilities across the country maintained secret waiting lists, only two lower-level employees have been fired for wait-time manipulation.
At the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, officials covered up a problem with Legionnaire’s Disease for more than a year. As at least a half-dozen veterans died, hospital administrators repeatedly failed to adhere to proven legionella-control measures while senior executives misled Congress. Two years after the outbreak, the director was forced out and received a settlement in return for not appealing the decision.
Our veterans deserve better than this ongoing circus of failure, coverup and scandal. Even if we give the VA all the money it asks for, I have come to expect the department will release more shockingly bad news next week, next month and next year.
Crisis after crisis, there is one person consistently absent from the discussion. Although we may disagree on many points, dedicated citizens in Congress — Republicans and Democrats — and in the VA are working to ensure that America fulfills its commitment to those who served. But there is no substitute for leadership by the commander-in-chief. The person our Constitution has vested with the power to execute the laws and who is most able to demand action from the department is the president of the United States.
The president must step up. If there is truly a crisis so severe as to threaten the closing of VA hospitals, the president should be sounding the alarm. Just as speeches from the bully pulpit matter, so does a president’s silence.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, is chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.Read More
Chairmen Miller and Dent Pledge that Congress will Address Recently Disclosed Funding Shortfall
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Chairman Jeff Miller (House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs) and Chairman Charlie Dent (House Committee on Appropriations, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee) released the following joint statement on VA’s budget shortfall.
“As chairmen of the relevant Veterans Affairs panels in the House of Representatives, we were recently notified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that, without Congressional action, it will run out of funding prior to the end of the fiscal year. The VA has made shocking claims that it will begin shutting down hospitals and furloughing staff as a result. We are diligently working to ensure this does not occur and that no veterans will be denied the care they need and deserve.
“America’s veterans must not be penalized for the VA’s inability to do its job. This is far from the first time the VA has disclosed problems far too late and turned its blatant mismanagement into a fiscal emergency. Two months ago, the VA couldn’t tell Congress it was over budget. Two weeks ago, it couldn’t tell Congress it would be shutting down hospitals next month. No viable organization can function this way. The VA’s continued lack of transparency and refusal to be forthright with Congress and the American people is unacceptable.
“Congress will not allow the VA’s failures to close care facilities or furlough the personnel our veterans rely on every day. We will work to enact the necessary reforms to end this continuing mismanagement and transform the VA into a more transparent and accountable Agency.”
335 Cannon HOB
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