Sunday, May 25, 2014

Begich Pushes for Funding to Fix Broken VA, Bring Accountability

Senator Mark Begich serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following:

090513 Press Room

May 22 2014

Begich Pushes for Funding to Fix Broken VA, Bring Accountability

Senate Appropriations Committee OKs Military Construction, Veterans Bill

U.S. Senator Mark Begich today used his seat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee to approve funding to give veterans the medical care they deserve, reduce the claims backlog for veterans, and hold accountable those who provided misleading information about shortcomings in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system.

In addition to funding the VA, the committee today approved legislation to fund military construction and family housing.  The committee allocated roughly $158.6 billion to the VA for Fiscal Year 2015 including additional funding and provisions for the VA office of Rural Health, to train rural medical professionals serving veteran communities, and to pick up the pace of Open Air Burn Pit Registry implementation.

“If Congress expects the VA to update its systems, streamline the claims process and deliver better care to our veterans, we need to step up and provide them with the resources to do the job,” said Begich.  “I’m a strong supporter of increased funding for the VA because our nation made a promise to these veterans when they signed up for duty.  Now we must do our duty and keep that promise.”
Begich also supported funds specifically allocated to resolve the investigations into waitlists and misconduct at the VA.  The bill includes $5 million in additional funding for an inspector general (IG) review of scheduling procedures, wait times, and management practices at VA medical centers.   A provision in the bill will restrict bonuses for senior VA staff in response to the recent controversy until the review is complete.  Begich also supports a successful amendment introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran giving the secretary of the VA authority to fire senior personnel for poor performance.
“In addition to increased funding, we must have increased accountability,” said Begich. “That’s why I included funds for a thorough investigation of the VA’s scheduling procedures and medical care wait times.  The recent allegations of cover-up and neglect are outrageous.  We must fix the broken system, fire those responsible, and restore the trust and confidence of our veterans and of the American people.  Until the investigation is complete, we are going to freeze the salaries of senior staff at the VA.”

Begich also supported an amendment requiring the VA Medical Inspector to submit to Congress a report every 180 days on the programs and activities of the VHA, including a description of any problems or deficiencies identified, the findings and recommendations of corrective actions concerning the quality of and access to health care provided, and the description of any legal or administrative action taken with respect to any VA employee.