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OP-ED: VA congressional oversight vital for Arizona veterans

October 22, 2018
In The News

The Phoenix VA Health Care System was the epicenter of an Obama-era scandal of corruption and mismanagement. The scandal happened at the expense of Arizona veterans, who, according to VA employees, waited more than a month to schedule their first primary-care provider appointment. 

The problems persist. Some of my constituents continue to wait more than a month to obtain a doctor’s appointment – even though they have urgent medical needs. Imagine the agony of waiting. 

 Fingers get pointed. People get fired. Congress passes laws. But we face the same old challenges. We need real transformation.

 Congress and the Trump Administration are taking bold steps to hold negligent bureaucrats accountable and help our veterans achieve a more transparent health care system.  However, despite some of Congress’s corrective actions, Arizona still faces the same bureaucratic challenges that plagued our VA system throughout the previous administration. 

A recent report from the VA indicates that the Phoenix VA remains a high-risk center, while many other health care systems around the nation show improvement.

To increase congressional oversight and help my constituents navigate the VA bureaucracy, I introduced the Phoenix VA Congressional Oversight Act. This legislation helps the Arizona congressional delegation address some of the challenges that are impeding progress at the PVAHCS. 

Specifically, the act creates a pilot program, which establishes a dedicated, full-time congressional relations team, allows Members of Congress to provide veterans services inside the PVAHCS, and requires a report from the VA Secretary on the findings of the pilot program, including whether the program should be expanded to other regions in the country.

 My staff and I frequently meet with frustrated constituents about the bureaucratic delays at the PVAHCS. Many veterans seek congressional intervention from my office because of their struggles to schedule medical appointments in a timely manner, and their inability to receive medical evaluations and treatment in a satisfactory way.

This is simply unacceptable.

We need the Phoenix VA Congressional Oversight Act because we have seen little progress at the PVAHCS. Whether it is delays in seeing a doctor, or untimely medical procedures, I grew weary of the persistent problems that lingered from the previous administration. 

By having a dedicated, full-time congressional relations team at the PVAHCS, we can help our veterans get the care that they deserve, as swiftly as possible.

My district staff sets up mobile office hours twice a month for constituent services at the Southeast VA Health Care Clinic in my district. While my office has received positive feedback from veterans regarding our presence at the Southeast clinic, there is more to be done for Arizona’s veterans. 

My bill would permit staff members from the congressional delegation to set up office hours at any VA Health Care System in Arizona, giving veterans a voice and holding the VA bureaucracy accountable.

The Phoenix VA Congressional Oversight Act can help us expedite veteran’s casework, reduce bureaucratic mismanagement, and enhance oversight and accountability at the PVAHCS.  This is a small, yet necessary, step in the right direction to help our veterans receive the care that they deserve.