WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, attended a hearing with Secretary Robert McDonald and Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin focusing on the state of health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Senator Murray discussed the long wait times for primary and specialty care within the Puget Sound Health Care System as well as the wait times for new mental health care patients in Spokane.
Senator Murray’s full opening remarks:
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.
“I would like to start by thanking Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin and the Department’s Office of Inspector General for all the work they did in conducting this review.
“Your investigators and staff put together an incredibly important report on what happened at Phoenix.
“Completing the other investigations, at nearly 100 medical centers, is an enormous task.
“So I want to thank the OIG for the incredible dedication it will take to get the job done.
“After many years of making critical contributions to veterans care and benefits, the IG rightly has a reputation of being objective, reliable and thorough in their work.
“Your findings will be vitally important to ensuring veterans across the country get the care they demand and deserve.
“I appreciate how Secretary McDonald has hit the ground sprinting in his new role and have taken immediate steps to get veterans off of wait-lists and into care.
“And while the VA’s latest data continues to show patient accessibility improving across the Department, I am still concerned about some of the facilities in my home state of Washington.
“Veterans receiving primary and specialty care within the Puget Sound Health Care System continue to wait longer than national averages for primary and specialty care…
“At Spokane, new mental health care patients wait over twice as long – 75 days – for their appointments.
“This must change.
“As VA continues to focus on providing veterans with timely access to care, it must also ensure veterans receive the highest quality of care.
“And as the IG’s report showed, that was all too often not the case at Phoenix.
“The IG found that the Phoenix Health Care System struggled with many basic quality of care issues like leaving routine physical examinations and evaluations incomplete or failing to conduct them at all; releasing mental health care patients before their medications were properly stabilized; and struggling to provide dedicated mental health care providers to patients.
“When we are talking about caring for our nation’s heroes and their families, we expect excellence.
“And as I have said repeatedly -- as transparency and accountability increase at the VA, so will the investigations and reports of additional concerns requiring even more action from the VA, the Administration, and Congress.
“So today, I want to hear how VA will address the findings of the IG, the VA access audit, and the White House’s review.
“In addition, I’d like to hear how the VA will implement the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act.
“Yesterday, we heard the Secretary speak about VA recommitting itself to its core values.
“Today, we need to know how the Secretary will turn those commitments into real action, and to improved care for our nation’s heroes.”