House approves Walorski measure as part of seven-bill package to improve care for veterans

The House approved seven bills on Wednesday that aim to make veteran health care better and more accessible, including legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) to bring transparency to scheduling practices.

Walorski introduced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Scheduling Accountability Act, H.R. 467, in response to findings that the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Peru, Indiana, had engaged in schedule manipulation.

H.R. 467 would require VA facilities to certify compliance with VA scheduling policies on an annual basis, prohibiting the VA from granting exemptions from certification requirements that lead to facilities “self-certifying.”

“Our veterans risked life and limb for our freedom, but too often the VA has let them down,” Walorski said. “It’s time to put an end to scheduling manipulations and false wait time data. Holding every VA facility accountable for following scheduling rules is an important, common sense step as we work to fix the VA so it works for veterans.”

A VA investigation requested by Walorski confirmed allegations that employees of the VA facility in Peru scheduled and canceled appointments for veterans without the veterans’ knowledge or consent after the VA waived scheduling certification requirements in 2013.

“If the VA had conducted a proper audit of the facility’s scheduling practices last year, this misconduct could have been prevented,” Walorski said on the House floor. “The VA’s report recommended a review of scheduling compliance for all medical facilities in the region. The VA’s continued inability to reform itself from within is the reason we need to pass this bill.”

The legislation would also make facility directors ineligible for bonuses if certification requirements aren’t met, and Congress would receive a list of facilities that failed to comply with them.

Walorski’s bill, and the six additional veterans bills that cleared the House on Wednesday, were supported by U.S. Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Bill Shuster (R-PA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“Our veterans risked sacrificing everything they had for the good of our nation,” Shuster said. “Unfortunately, certain VA policies and procedures have prevented them from receiving the best care possible. If you’ve worn the uniform, you deserve the best treatment this country can offer.”

The House also approved H.R. 1005 to increase access to adult day services for veterans; H.R. 1162 to establish a pilot program making Magnetic Resonant Therapy a mental health treatment option; H.R 1329 to ensure veterans’ cost-of-living adjustments are on-par with Social Security’s; H.R. 1545 to improve VA prescription drug monitoring; H.R. 1725 to make VA compensation examinations more timely and to expedite the disability claims process; and H.R. 2288 to establish a new appeals system to address the backlog of disability decision appeals.

“No commitment is more important than the commitments we’ve given to our men and women in uniform,” Issa said. “These bills ensure veterans will have timely access to quality health care, help disabled veterans better make ends meet, provide speedier resolution for the benefits appeals process and increase the level of service at the VA.”

Issa added, “After giving so much for our country, our veterans deserve the highest quality of care. I’m proud of the work we’ve done today and encourage the Senate to quickly pass these bills and send them to the president’s desk as soon as possible.”