Walters, McMorris Rodgers outline need for VA reform, investigation oversight in light of new report

U.S. Reps. Mimi Walters (R-CA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) recently responded to an audit that discovered that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) care has grown worse rather than better.

Long wait times for veterans to receive care haven’t been corrected, schedulers at half of reviewed VA centers falsified wait time information, and scheduling was done improperly a quarter of the time, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit report.

The report also found that approximately half of 180 newly enrolled veterans were unable to access primary care because the VA did not schedule appointments for them as mandated by the Veterans Health Administration Policy.

“I am horrified by the scandals that have taken place at the VA, and I am outraged that nearly two years later our veterans are still not receiving the care they have earned,” Walters said. “These brave men and women have risked life and limb to serve our nation, and they deserve the highest quality care. While the VA continues to fail our veterans, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to obstruct legitimate congressional oversight of the VA.”

When questioned by Walters during a hearing in November, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the DOJ’s office of Legislative Affairs (OLA) would provide information about the DOJ’s investigation into the VA.

In December, however, the OLA refused to answer Walters’ questions or provide information related to the DOJ’s investigation.

“Clearly, the VA is broken, and I will not stand by idly while our veterans continue to suffer as the VA and DOJ play political games and protect agency bureaucrats,” Walters said. “The DOJ must stop its egregious stonewalling and provide Congress with information related to their investigations. I will continue to fight for justice to ensure our veterans receive the answers and care they deserve.”

McMorris Rodgers, meanwhile, noted in an op-ed published on Tuesday by the Washington Post that the VA told Congress that it had postponed a planned overhaul of its scheduling system.

“I believe we should open up the scheduling process to the same technologies being used in doctors’ offices by private citizens across the country, which is why I’ve introduced legislation with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) that incorporates self-scheduling so veterans can schedule and confirm medical appointments online and immediately,” McMorris Rodgers wrote. “But the scheduling system is not enough. Across the board, whether it’s how appointments are scheduled, or the quality of health services provided, our veterans should have access to the same technology and services as private patients across the country.”

McMorris Rodgers, a founder of the Congressional Military Family Caucus, added that she would focus on legislation that “demonstrates to the VA how innovative ideas already being used in the private sector can also work for them” in the coming months.

“The time has run out for the VA to address its issues on its own,” McMorris Rodgers wrote. “If this administration cannot follow through on the fundamental duty and solemn obligation to serve our veterans with the VA as-is, then it’s time to try something different. No more waiting. No more sitting by the phone hoping that someone follows up.”

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