OP-ED: Congressman: House passed 43 VA reform bills, but there's more work to do
Serving in the Armed Forces requires sacrifices large and small – time away from family and friends, physical and emotional well-being, and for some, the ultimate sacrifice. In exchange, our nation is committed to providing our veterans and their families care and treatment in recognition of those sacrifices.
We promise our veterans health care and additional services through the Veterans Administration. Many who work at the VA do an excellent job and are committed to providing quality care.
Unfortunately, a lack of accountability and oversight has led to a plague of poor care for our veterans. This epidemic has spread to all levels of the agency. Some of the VA’s employees are uncaring and apathetic.
Legislative and executive branch investigations have uncovered the true gravity of the situation through courageous whistleblowers. Meanwhile, the number of underserved veterans has continued to mount.
House has passed 43 reform bills
Previously, the Phoenix VA was exposed as one of the worst actors. Stories of wait lists, profiteering officials and lack of attention have been well documented. I and other members of the Arizona congressional delegation have taken steps to restore a high level of care to our veterans.
Yet there hasn’t been near enough improvement.
Congress is committed to keeping the promises we made to our veterans. Since January, the House has passed 43 pieces of legislation to reform the VA and other veterans’ assistance programs. Some of these bills have made it through the Senate and have been signed into law by President Trump. In the current hyper-partisan climate, both sides of the aisle have put aside political differences to aid our nation’s heroes.
These bills are an excellent start, but there is additional work to be done. My colleagues and I have reached out to VA officials – both locally and nationally – to resolve a number of specific troubling issues facing our constituents.
We have written letters. We have met privately with officials. We have led efforts within our delegation to help the VA develop best practices to bring more efficient care to those who have served. The VA asserts that it is trying to correct its culture, but my constituents are justifiably skeptical of their efforts.
Make no mistake: my office will continue to do everything within our power to work with the VA and to applaud positive changes.
What's left to do for veterans
Several steps remain to restore trust to our veterans. The Choice Program should be made more flexible and accessible. Scheduling systems must be modernized. A streamlined process must be implemented to better hold employees accountable.
I recently sent a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin to address a couple of local issues. The lack of clear criteria for approving benefits claims at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Regional office remains burdensome for veterans.
Also, there is no specific timeline for a regional office to address a remanded case from an appeals judge, which can increase the possibility of years of bureaucratic burdens and backlog. The VA must correct these issues and make these improvements permanent.
For many generations, American men and women have bravely defended our nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Their valiant commitment and selfless devotion allows millions of Americans the luxury of enjoying their God-given freedoms. We should all be eternally grateful.
My staff and I formally honor veterans on Veterans Day, but I am grateful for our veterans every day of the year. Thank you all for your service. May God bless you and your families.