Apr 23, 2015

The VA Slow Walks Reform

First, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald said 60 VA employees who had manipulated wait times were fired. Turns out that number was wrong, and it was more like 14.

Except it wasn’t actually 14, like the VA said. In fact, according to internal documents reported yesterday, the real number of people they removed from their jobs was “at most, three.” Findings from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs indicate that the VA hasn’t fired a single employee for wait time manipulations.

This has got to stop. How can we fix the problem if the VA won’t even be honest about what they are doing?

As Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at the Concerned Veterans for America Summit,

If you come and tell me a report that somehow you’ve done something and you think you’ve solved it and you lied—that behavior has got to stop. I would respect somebody more who stood before me and said, ‘You gave me this task, it’s not there, I’ve tried, and this is why I’m failing.’ I would trust that individual. That’s where I want to be able to go, because that would be the first step in solving the overall problem.”

It’s bad enough that only three people at the most were removed for manipulating wait times even when dozens of veterans died while waiting for care. But the situation is made worse when the VA repeatedly misleads about its practices.

Despite the House’s attempts to work with the VA and fix the problems, we can’t help our veterans if the VA isn’t transparent. Congress already gave the Secretary of the VA authority to get rid of bad employees who aren’t doing their jobs to help veterans, which is a fundamental part of the overall plan to reform the VA.

And this isn’t the first problem we’ve had. For months, the VA has been dragging its feet in executing Congress’s reforms:

  • Until just a few weeks ago, the Administration interpreted the part of the reform law that grants veterans access to private care if they live 40 miles from a VA health center in the most restrictive way possible to mean 40 miles as the crow flies instead of the miles a veteran must spend on the road.
  • And whistleblowers continue to fear retaliation for pointing out bad practices or crimes

Congress has passed reforms into law that would expand veterans’ access to choice and hold the VA accountable. We undoubtedly need more legislation to fully fix the VA—which is why Chairman Jeff Miller (FL-01) introduced a bill today to grant the VA secretary even more authority to fire corrupt or incompetent employees.

But laws alone can’t fix the VA’s problems. The Administration needs to get its act together and start honestly implementing the reforms Congress has already passed. Nothing less is acceptable.