Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH) today released the following statement regarding the U.S. House of Representatives’ unanimous passage of H.R. 4810, the Veterans Access to Care Act. The legislation comes as reports regarding unacceptable delays, an inability to schedule appointments and even veterans’ deaths while waiting for care at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continue to surface.
“One of the most disconcerting aspects of the VA crisis is that these issues could have been prevented if the Department had used its authority to offer veterans health care services outside the VA,” said Latta. “As I continue to hear from veterans throughout my district, it is clear that the issues within the VA are systemic and that there is still much to be done to ensure these conditions do not continue. The Veterans Access to Care Act is an important step to rectifying these issues by helping tens of thousands of veterans receive timely access to medical care, and I urge my Senate colleagues to act swiftly on this legislation, so we can get these heroes the care and treatment they have both earned and deserve.”
Two weeks ago, Congressman Latta held a series of listening sessions with veterans throughout Ohio’s Fifth Congressional District to hear about their experiences with the VA. At the events, which were held in Perrysburg, Findlay and Defiance, Ohio veterans detailed stories about the current lengthy wait times, inadequate care and the lack of communication between various offices at the VA, among other issues.
An internal audit of the VA released yesterday also revealed that more than 57,000 newly enrolled veterans currently face a minimum 90-day wait for medical care. In addition, nearly 64,000 veterans who enrolled over the past decade have requested an appointment that has never happened. Of the 731 VA Medical Facilities reviewed in the audit, the facilities in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Ann Arbor and Indianapolis were also cited for further review of scheduling and access management practices.
The Veterans Access to Care Act would require the VA to offer non-VA care at the Department’s expense to any enrolled veteran who cannot get an appointment within VA wait time goals or who lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility. The legislation also bans bonuses for all VA employees from Fiscal Year 2014 through Fiscal Year 2016. In addition, the bill requires an independent assessment of Veterans Health Administration performance, including recommendations for improving the VA’s current and projected health care capabilities and resources. Finally, the bill would require the VA to report to both the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees regarding this assessment’s findings and provide timelines for full implementation of the audit’s recommendations.