Senator Patty Murray's office issued the following yesterday:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Tuesday, July 08, 2014 (202) 224-2834
Murray Delivers Remarks on VA Reform, Secretary and Conference Committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), senior member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding reform at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), the VA Secretary nominee, and the ongoing conference committee.
Full remarks as prepared:
“M. President, I believe that when it comes to caring for our nation’s heroes, we cannot accept anything less than excellence. Like many of my colleagues I have been very troubled by the most recent allegations of VA failing to provide veterans with timely health care. VA generally offers very high quality health care and does many things as well as -- or better than -- the private sector. But when you are caring for the nation’s heroes, and you have the backing of the full resources of the Federal government, ‘just as good’ is not enough – we expect more.
“So I am very frustrated to be here again talking about these deeply disturbing issues, and the Department’s repeated failures to change. GAO and the Inspector General have reported on these problems many times over the years. And last Congress we did a great deal of work around wait times, particularly for mental health care. I think VA is starting to see that business as usual is not acceptable.
“The Administration has taken steps to begin addressing some of the major, system-wide problems -- but much more needs to be done. Tomorrow, when I meet with the President’s nominee for VA Secretary, I will ask him about how he plans to make these changes. And that is why I am very glad to be serving on the veterans conference committee – because Congress needs to act as well.
“The most important thing we can do right now is to pass responsible and effective legislation to bring much needed reforms to VA. And we need to do it soon.
“There have been major bipartisan efforts in both the House and the Senate to move legislation addressing these problems. Many Members have been part of those efforts and I commend them all for their commitment to bipartisanship and for putting the needs of our veterans first.
“Now it is vital that we continue to build on this bipartisan momentum – and continue making progress if we are going to address some of the immediate accountability and transparency concerns plaguing the VA, and to fix its deep-seated structural and cultural challenges.
“I know Members have a wide range of concerns with the bills. And I believe we can address these concerns responsibly and in a way that puts our veterans first and gives the VA the tools they need to address the challenges they face. That means building and strengthening the VA system so it delivers the best care over the long term.
“But it is important for us to act quickly to start making these changes. We cannot allow this process to break down. Veterans are still waiting to get the care they need. Many of us were rightly outraged that VA did not act to help veterans – because the Department ignored all the information and did nothing.
“This Congress must not do the same thing and fail veterans by not acting. I urge all of my colleagues to work as hard and as quickly as possible to finalize an agreement and get it to the President.
“As more problems will be uncovered, and the investigations will proceed, and we will need even more action from VA, the Administration, and Congress.
“Because the nation made a promise to the men and women who answered the call of duty—and one of the most important ways we uphold that is by making sure our veterans can access the health care they need and deserve – no matter what it takes.”
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
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