By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, May 2, Representative Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery released a statement concerning the backlog situation at the Veterans Administration and efforts to correct the abusive system which has seen some veterans die while waiting for medical care; care that was promised to them when they enlisted. Congressman Mike Rogers (R) from Saks has also recently commented on the VA crisis.
Rep. Roby said, “There is no greater duty we have as a nation than to care for our veterans. Thousands of doctors, nurses, and public servants at the VA work hard to give veteran patients the best healthcare we can offer. But, too often, our system fails those it was created to help. An outrageous backlog at the VA has caused veterans to wait months for answers on disability claims.”
Rep. Roby continued, “The same is true of VA medical services, where waiting lists for some critical services are terribly long. In some instances, veterans may have died waiting for health services from the VA. That is simply unacceptable in the United States of America, and we need to do something about it. That’s why I’m pleased the House of Representatives on Thursday passed an appropriations bill providing critical funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, while also seeking systemic changes to improve service.”
Rep. Mike Rogers said, “The recent reports of preventable deaths of Veterans while waiting for VA care are appalling and inexcusable. It is also greatly disturbing to learn that some senior executive managers at these specific VA centers received massive bonuses, and those bonuses were never tied to their performance. These senior managers have the duty and responsibility to make sure our Veterans get the care they deserve on time. If they can’t do their jobs, then they should be fired.”
Rep. Roby said, “This bi-partisan bill increases funding for veterans programs by $1.5 billion for fiscal year 2015 while remaining in line with recently enacted budget caps. Specifically, the bill provides funding for medical care, mental health services, suicide prevention activities, traumatic brain injury treatment, homeless services and job training. The bill also contains more than $344 million to modernize the VA electronic health record system and more than $173 million to update the paperless claims processing system – both of which are badly needed to deal with the claims backlog.”
Rep. Roby continued, “As a member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, I was proud to work with my colleagues on this funding measure that will ensure proper resources for our veteran assistance programs. I’m also proud that the bill passed the full House of Representatives by an overwhelming 416-1 vote.”
Rep. Rogers said that he supports HR 4031, the “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014,” which would give the Secretary of Veterans Affairs the authority to remove employees of the Senior Executive Service based on performance. Rep. Rogers said, “The senior leadership at the VA must be held accountable for their management performance. Once they are, then hopefully they will start to address the massive backlog of cases at the VA. I fully support House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller’s call for an inspector general’s investigation on these recent reports of preventable deaths and lavish bonuses.”
Rep. Roby said, “Of course, money alone won’t solve the backlog problems, which is why the bill contains important measures increasing oversight of and accountability within the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
Rep. Roby said, “One way I believe we can greatly improve the timeliness and quality of veteran health services is to further develop the Patient-Centered Community Care program, which allows the VA to contract with local health providers. Some services that our veterans need aren’t always offered at their local VA hospital, or if they are, the waiting list for service might be really long. In these cases, it only makes sense for the VA to contract out services through local providers and get the veteran patients the care they need.”
Rep. Rogers said, “Our veterans answered the call of duty when our nation needed them. Our nation in turn must keep our promise we made to them.”
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. Congressman Mike Rogers represents Alabama’s Third Congressional District.