By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, May 22, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R) from Alabama spoke on the growing scandal at the Department of Veteran Affairs while in a committee meeting considering the Fiscal Year 2015 Veterans Affairs/Military Construction funding bill. Sen. Shelby said that it was unconscionable that Veterans were denied timely access to healthcare.
Sen. Shelby said, that veterans, “Serve for our freedoms, and the very least that we can do is provide them with timely access to health benefits they have earned.”
Sen. Shelby told the Committee, “I am deeply concerned about the recent allegations of “secret” waiting lists and avoidable veteran deaths as a result of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ mismanagement. It is unconscionable that our nation’s veterans would be denied timely access to the healthcare services they both need and have earned. It is furthermore unconscionable that the Obama Administration has ignored repeated warning signs of these abuses, including a December 2012 GAO report, a September 2013 Inspector General report, and a December 2013 report by the Office of the Medical Inspector.”
Sen. Shelby continued, “During his 2008 Presidential campaign, then Senator Barack Obama affirmed that, quote, “In an Obama administration, the VA will provide benefits and care that will be accessible, high-quality, reliable, responsive and fair, year after year,” end quote. Yet today, we are faced with reports of VA employees creating secret waiting lists and falsifying records, leading to numerous preventable veteran deaths. Let me be clear. This kind of reported misconduct at the VA is unforgivable. It is unacceptable. And, it is just plain wrong.”
Sen. Shelby said, “While I commend the Committee’s support for an additional $5 million in funding to the Office of the Inspector General to investigate the VA’s scheduling practices, I also recognize that this is just a starting point. We must do more than simply “research” the problem. We must correct it. And, we must correct it before any more veterans are adversely affected.”
Sen. Shelby said that he was, “Pleased that the Committee is giving the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill top priority.” Sen. Shelby said, “I want to encourage this Committee to seek real answers and accountability from the VA.” “Our nation’s veterans deserve to be treated with the respect they have earned during their service to our country. The cost of freedom is dear, and this cost is borne willingly by America’s veterans. They sacrifice for our nation. They serve for our freedoms, and the very least that we can do is provide them with timely access to health benefits they have earned. I look forward to working with this Committee to find real solutions, and to finally ensure that the VA does, indeed, provide “benefits and care that will be accessible, high-quality, reliable, responsive and fair, year after year.”
The VA runs a string of Federal government owned and operated hospitals across the country for veterans. Many veterans rely on the VA for their healthcare coverage. The VA sets goals for performance. Administrators who achieve those goals are rewarded by the bureaucracy. According to recent revelations, many of those administrators have falsified those records and have denied necessary care to numerous veterans across the country to make those numbers look better than they really are. VA employees are protected by government employees unions and contracts that make it virtually impossible to fire incompetent, inept, or corrupt government workers.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) from Kentucky told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly Monday that President Obama needs to “step up to the plate” and personally focus on the problems plaguing the VA. “He needs to step up to the plate, don’t try to blame it on Bush or the Republicans in Congress,” he said. “He’s the CEO of the country, the VA reports to him.” “He needs to put the same kind of personal attention to this as he did to the ObamaCare website and the whole rollout of that law.” “These men and women have sacrificed for our country, we promised them the best possible care, this is a problem that needs to be kept.”
Senator Richard Shelby is the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Shelby was elected to the Senate in 1988 after serving in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Alabama legislature.