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Smith Report 6.19.2014

Our Veterans Deserve More From the VA
America’s veterans bravely put themselves in harm’s way to defend our freedoms. Once our veterans return home they should never have to worry about receiving the benefits they have earned. This week the Department of Veterans Affairs released an audit detailing alarming numbers of American veterans who are not receiving the care they have so fully earned. As your representative in the United States House of Representatives, I am working every day to ensure our veterans and their well-being is a priority.
The audit released this week proves that problems with the VA go well beyond a patient backlog. According to the audit, 57,000 veterans have been waiting more than 90 days for their first VA appointment. Worse yet, the audit found that 64,000 veterans have fallen through the cracks completely and never received an appointment with a VA doctor after requesting one. This is a national disgrace and our veterans deserve better. The audit also found that some VA schedulers were told by their superiors to falsify appointment schedules to make patient wait times appear shorter. This is unacceptable.
The men and women who have served in our military deserve more from the VA. Veterans who have defended our freedoms and values at home and abroad should be not forced to wait for months to see a doctor. If any veteran in the Eighth District is having a problem with the VA, I encourage them to contact one of my district offices so we can help. My staff and I work every day to ensure our veterans get the care they have earned and deserve.
This week the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that I sponsored, the Veterans Access to Care Act which will give veterans who are forced to wait for VA healthcare access to private care providers. This common sense legislation is long overdue. The Veterans Access to Care Act would require the VA to offer private healthcare services to any veteran who cannot get an appointment within VA wait time goals – currently 14 days – or who lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility. Additionally, the bill would ban bonuses for all VA employees through 2016. Bureaucrats at the VA should not be getting financial bonuses while veterans are being forced to wait months to see a doctor.
The Department of Veterans Affairs needs real reforms. While the Veterans Access to Care Act will not fix all that is broken within the VA, it is an important first step to make healthcare accessible for America’s veterans. No one who served our nation in uniform should have to worry about waiting months to see a doctor. I will continue working in the House of Representatives to keep the promises made to our veterans and honor their service to our nation. We must always honor the sacrifices of our military members.