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[AUDIO] VETERANS: Murray Continues Call for Decisive, Transparent VA Action

May 22 2014

Murray: “What we need from VA now is decisive action and I think this Committee should be clear to the VA what we expect. The lack of transparency and the lack of accountability are inexcusable and cannot be allowed to continue.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) continued her push for action at the VA during the Senate Appropriations Committee’s first Full Committee Markup of the year. During consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs Appropriations bill, Murray reiterated her call for decisive, transparent action from the Department of Veterans Affairs to address the deep, system-wide problems when it comes to health care wait times. Murray also expressed support for provisions that would address those wait times and increase accountability through prohibiting the VA from awarding bonuses to VHA senior executives, medical directors, and assistant directors until the Inspector General completes a nation-wide review and the VA provides a plan to implement the recommendations.

The bill also funds Senator Murray’s key priorities for veterans, including mental health and suicide prevention, gender specific care for women veterans, Vet Centers, care for veterans in rural areas, and care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

LISTEN to Senator Murray’s remarks.

Full Text of Senator Murray’s Remarks:

“I want to thank Chairman Johnson and Ranking Member Kirk and their staffs for all their work putting this bill together. 

“Like pretty much every American, I believe that when it comes to caring for our nation’s heroes, we cannot accept anything less than excellence.

“The VA and the Department generally offers very high quality health care—but it is really disappointing that the Department has failed to address wait times for that care.

“I was glad to see President Obama weigh in on this issue yesterday, but these recent allegations are not new issues – they are deep, system-wide problems, and they do grow more concerning every day. We should not be waiting to take action.

“The Inspector General and GAO have reported on this problem repeatedly for several years.  But many of the recommendations still have not been implemented by the VA.

“The Department has announced it’s going to conduct a nation-wide review of access to care.   And there have been some adjustments in personnel. But those are really only first steps. 

“There are still far too many unanswered questions about the review, including whether it is taking a serious look at the problem.

“As I told Secretary Shinseki last week, I continue to believe that he does take this seriously and wants to do the right thing.  But we really have come to the point where we need to have more than good intentions.

“What we need from VA right now is decisive action and I think this Committee mark should be very clear to the VA what we expect.

“The lack of transparency and the lack of accountability are inexcusable and cannot continue to be allowed. 

“Giving bonuses to hospital directors for running a system that places priority on gaming the system and keeping their numbers down rather than providing care to veterans – has to come to an end.  

“That is why I am very pleased the Subcommittee’s mark includes a provision to prohibit VA from awarding bonuses to VHA senior executives, medical directors, and assistant directors until the Inspector General completes a nation-wide review and  the VA provides a plan to implement the recommendations.

“And I also commend you Mr. Chairman for adding an extra $5 million to the Inspector General to conduct that review. 

“We cannot continue to not provide the resources for the care at the local level or for the IG to be able to conduct this very important review.

“So I really want to thank Chairman Johnson and Ranking Member Kirk for including those really important provisions in this bill and addressing wait times and increasing accountability. I think this takes a very important direction, and I appreciate it.

“There are other issues in this bill very important to all of us. I do want to thank the Chairman for his willingness to continue to work with me on providing reproductive health services to our most catastrophically wounded heroes. I wasn’t able to include it in this, but we are going to continue to work on that.

“Madam Chairman, I just think it is extremely important that all of us recognize that this committee is making a strong statement with this bill about the challenges we’ve been hearing at the VA, and I appreciate it.”