U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today is renewing her call for immediate action to address the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) crisis after a new report detailed systemic problems at VA facilities across the country including long wait times and mismanagement issues. The report indicated that the Manchester facility is not on the list for further review.
“The systemic problems at the VA are very troubling and require immediate action,” said Shaheen. “Our veterans deserve timely and accessible care and while the VA is taking steps forward, such as canceling bonuses like I have called for, the VA still has a long way to go. I will continue to work across the aisle to address the management crisis at the VA and implement necessary reforms, including mandating regular audits, in order to deliver on the promise we’ve made to our veterans.”
Last week Shaheen met with officials at the VA facility in Manchester to discuss the ongoing backlog and efforts to implement needed reforms across the VA. She also welcomed news of a bipartisan compromise from Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and John McCain (R-AZ) that would reform the Department of Veterans Affairs and expand veterans’ access to health care. The Sanders-McCain language has yet to be finalized but will be considered by the full Senate soon.
Shaheen has co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to boost accountability at the VA by giving the Secretary the authority to fire or demote senior level employees based on their performance and also introduced her own legislation to address the mismanagement issues identified in a recent Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that have led to delayed care for veterans. Her Veterans Access to Care Accountability Act further strengthens VA accountability through precluding bonuses from being paid to VA officials involved in mismanagement and also mandates random auditing requirements by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Office of Inspector General and other watchdog agencies for VA medical facilities. The bill also would require veterans be contacted within 48 hours and scheduled an appointment with an outside medical facility within one week if a report determines veterans have been delayed access to care.
In May Shaheen introduced the Veterans Appeals Improvement Act which would invest in staff resources at VA regional offices to help process appeals claims. Language similar to Shaheen’s bill was cleared by the Senate Appropriations Committee and is awaiting action by the full Senate.