A CNN report published today found that at least 40 veterans have died waiting for an appointment at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health system. Top administrators reportedly knew that these vets—along with an estimated 1,400 to 1,600 others—were put on a secret waiting list in order to obscure the Phoenix VA’s true wait times.
These reports are both tragic and unacceptable.
Last year, I led my colleagues in Congress in requesting that Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct an audit of the VA in the timely processing of disability claims and an audit of its scheduling of medical appointments. I wanted an independent analysis of the VA to ensure our veterans receive the benefits and medical services they are entitled to in a timely manner. The GAO found that the VA’s positive wait time reports are not actually what veterans experience and there has been a subsequent growth in the backlog of disability claims. After the report, the VA agreed to reduce their backlog and increase processing accuracy.
I also introduced H.R. 2138, the “Ending the VA Claims Disability Backlog and Accountability Act,” to ensure that all disability claims are either approved or denied within 125 after the claim’s submission. Though H.R. 2138 passed in the House by a vote of 404-1, the Senate has yet to act.
In February, the House has introduced H.R. 4031, the “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act,” which would give the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs authority to remove employees of the Senior Executive service whose actions warrant removal. Under this law, executives who know about such deplorable wait times, do nothing, and even going so far as to hide evidence, could be swiftly removed from their posts.
It is high time we reform the Veterans Administration to promptly provide the service and care our veterans need and deserve. Having already fought for our country, our veterans should never have to fight for the benefits and care that we promised them for their service.