Chairman Roe Statement on Secretary Shulkin’s Call for VA Accountability

Chairman Roe Statement on Secretary Shulkin’s Call for VA Accountability
Today, Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after VA Secretary David Shulkin announced the delayed firing of a VA employee in Houston who was caught watching pornography while treating a veteran patient:

“The time for talking about accountability is over. This situation underscores the need for Congress to get VA accountability legislation to President Trump’s desk, and I thank Secretary Shulkin for making this a top priority. I was proud my bill, the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, passed the House with bipartisan support earlier this month. Veterans deserve better. I encourage my Senate colleagues to consider my legislation, and I look forward to working with Secretary Shulkin to change the way VA does business.”

Background:

This is the third time in the past two years that the House has passed legislation to provide the Secretary with the tools he needs to discipline or fire VA employees who fail in their duty to serve veterans. On March 16, 2017, the House passed Chairman Roe’s bill, the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. This bipartisan legislation will give Secretary Shulkin the authority to expeditiously fire poor-performing employees. The bill was widely supported by multiple Veterans Service Organizations. Chairman Roe penned this op-ed on the legislation. Learn more at veterans.house.gov/accountability.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-roe-statement-secretary-shulkin-s-call-va-accountability

HVAC Schedule April 3 – 7

HVAC Schedule April 3 – 7
Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) today released the hearing schedule for April 3 – 7.

The following events are open to the press:

 

WHO: House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

WHAT: “An Assessment of Ongoing Concerns at the Veterans Crisis Line”

WHEN: 10:00 a.m., Tuesday, April 4, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov

 

WHO: Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

WHAT: “Assessing VA Approved Appraisers and How to Improve the Program for the 21st Century”

WHEN: 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 4, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov

 

WHO: Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

WHAT: Legislative Hearing

WHEN: 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 5, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov

Legislation

Draft legislation: Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2017
H.R. 105: Protect Veterans from Financial Fraud Act of 2017
H.R. 299: Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017
H.R. 1328: American Heroes COLA Act of 2017
H.R. 1329: Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017
H.R. 1390: To authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to pay costs relating to the transportation of certain deceased veterans to veterans’ cemeteries owned by a State or tribal organization
H.R. 1564: VA Beneficiary Travel Act of 2017

 

WHO: Subcommittee on Health

WHAT: Legislative Markup

WHEN: 8:00 a.m., Thursday, April 6, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov

*Details on the legislation will be released at a later date

 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-schedule-april-3-7

Pending Legislation

Pending Legislation

https://veterans.house.gov/legislation/markups/pending-legislation-4

HVAC to Assess VA’s Home Loan Appraisal Process

HVAC to Assess VA’s Home Loan Appraisal Process
On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity will hold a hearing entitled, “Assessing VA Approved Appraisers and How to Improve the Program for the 21st Century.”

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

WHAT: “Assessing VA Approved Appraisers and How to Improve the Program for the 21st Century”

WHEN: 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 4, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at https://veterans.house.gov/

Background:

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ home loan guaranty program helps veterans, servicemembers and eligible reservists to obtain, retain, adapt or refinance a home. As a part of VA’s home loan process, veterans must have their home appraised by a VA-approved appraiser, which the veteran pays for as a part of their closing costs. While the timeline for completing a VA-approved appraisal is efficient for most veterans, there are growing concerns that the shrinking economy of appraisers nationwide could increase the time it takes to complete an appraisal, especially for veterans in highly rural areas. This may affect a veteran’s ability to close on a home.

During this hearing, the subcommittee will assess VA’s current appraisal process, as well as specific difficulties for timely appraisals in highly rural areas. The subcommittee will also examine possibilities to improve VA-approved appraisals with emerging evaluation technologies, while still providing the veteran with a cost-effective and timely evaluation of the property they are seeking to purchase.   
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-assess-va-s-home-loan-appraisal-process

Chairman Roe, Ranking Member Walz Announce Hearing to Assess Veterans Crisis Line

Chairman Roe, Ranking Member Walz Announce Hearing to Assess Veterans Crisis Line
Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-Minn.) announced the committee will hold a full committee oversight hearing to assess ongoing concerns regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs Crisis Line (VCL).

The members released the following statements:

“The men and woman who have worn the uniform of our great nation have sacrificed so much to protect the freedoms we enjoy today. When they are in crisis, they deserve to have their calls answered in a timely manner by a trained professional,” said Roe. “I look forward to this opportunity to conduct oversight of the Veterans Crisis Line so that our nation’s heroes can get the help they need when they need it most.”  

“When it comes to ending the tragedy of veteran suicide, the Veterans Crisis Line is one of our greatest assets; that is why it is imperative VCL works properly so that when a veteran makes that dire call for help, they are able to receive the assistance they need from a trained professional without delay,” said Walz. “Being there for our veterans is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of the VA, that is why I look forward to working with Chairman Roe as our Committee conducts oversight on this critical issue.”

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

WHAT: “An Assessment of Ongoing Concerns at the Veterans Crisis Line”

WHEN: Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov

Background:

The VCL was established in 2007 with the mission of providing immediate, confidential suicide prevention and crisis intervention services to veterans. Since February 2016, the VA Inspector General (IG) has released two reports documenting serious defects with the operations and management of the VCL.

The most recent IG report, which was released on March 20, 2017, found that the VCL had failed to adequately respond to a veteran caller with urgent needs; that VCL’s governance structure, operations, and quality assurance functions are deficient; that VA had failed to implement the recommendations issued in response to the previous IG report; and, that VCL social service assistants were inadequately trained and overseen.

During the hearing, the Committee will assess the IG’s findings and recommendations as well as the effectiveness of the actions VA has taken to realign the VCL and rectify its flaws. The Committee will also examine the department’s progress implementing the No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act (Public Law 114-247), which Congress passed in 2016 to require VA to develop a VCL quality assurance program and a plan to ensure that each call, text, or other incoming communication is responded to by the VCL in a timely, appropriate manner.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/chairman-roe-ranking-member-walz-announce-hearing-assess-veterans-crisis-line

“An Assessment of Ongoing Concerns at the Veterans Crisis Line”

“An Assessment of Ongoing Concerns at the Veterans Crisis Line”

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/assessment-ongoing-concerns-veterans-crisis-line

“Legislative Hearing on: Draft legislation, the Veterans Affairs Medical Scribe Pilot Act of 2017; H.R. 91, the Building Supportive Networks for Women Veterans Act; H.R. 95, the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act; H.R. 467, the VA Scheduling Account…

“Legislative Hearing on: Draft legislation, the Veterans Affairs Medical Scribe Pilot Act of 2017; H.R. 91, the Building Supportive Networks for Women Veterans Act; H.R. 95, the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act; H.R. 467, the VA Scheduling Account…

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/legislative-hearing-draft-legislation-veterans-affairs-medical-scribe-pilot-act-2017-hr-91

Wenstrup Introduces Legislation to Make VA 100% Smoke-Free

Wenstrup Introduces Legislation to Make VA 100% Smoke-Free
Subcommittee on Health Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) introduced legislation to prohibit smoking in any Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facility. Under this legislation, smoking would be banned inside VHA facilities immediately and outside VHA facilities within five years.

“Exposure to secondhand smoke puts veteran patients at unnecessary risk. This common sense reform mitigates that risk by requiring VHA facilities to become 100% smoke-free within five years,” said Wenstrup, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health. “As a doctor and veteran myself, ensuring that those who I have served alongside receive the best possible care is personal to me. But I believe it should be personal to every American. The least we can do for those who fought for us is ensure they receive the same considerations and treatments at the VA, as they would in the private-sector.”

“The health and well-being of our nation’s heroes should always come first,” said Roe, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “This commonsense legislation would bring VA’s smoking policies into the 21st Century, ensuring veteran patients receive the same considerations as patients in the private-sector.”

Background: According to VA, only 20 percent of veterans enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration are smokers. Many non-smoking veteran patients are at an increased risk for cardiovascular events associated with exposure to secondhand smoke. The VHA currently provides 971 outdoor designated smoking areas and 15 indoor designated smoking areas, as required by the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992. In contrast, smoking is prohibited in non-VA federal facilities, indoor military facilities and in most private-sector national healthcare systems. 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/wenstrup-introduces-legislation-make-va-100-smoke-free

Chairman Roe Statement on Report of Veterans Crisis Line Continued Failures

Chairman Roe Statement on Report of Veterans Crisis Line Continued Failures
Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement in response to the newly released Office of Inspector General (OIG) report revealing continued failures of the Veterans Crisis Line:

“It’s unacceptable that the issues with the Veterans Crisis Line have still not been addressed, and I hope Secretary Shulkin will take immediate steps to correct these serious shortcomings. The Veterans Crisis Line is intended to be the first line of defense against veteran suicide, and we must ensure calls are being answered by a trained professional in a timely manner. I am extremely frustrated by the OIG’s findings and will continue to conduct oversight so the men and women who answered the call to serve have their calls answered when they need help the most.”
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-roe-statement-report-veterans-crisis-line-continued-failures

HVAC Schedule March 20 – 24

HVAC Schedule March 20 – 24
Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) today released the hearing schedule for March 20 – 24.

The following events are open to the press:

 

WHO: Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

WHAT: Legislative Hearing

WHEN: 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 21, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov

Legislation: H.R. 1461: Veterans, Employees, and Taxpayers Protection Act of 2017 

 

WHO: House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees

WHAT: “Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentations from JWV, FRA, AFSA, MOPH, American Ex-POW, BVA, TREA, IAVA, MOAA”

WHEN: 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WHERE: Senate Dirksen Ground Floor Room 50 and streaming at veterans.senate.gov

 

WHO: Subcommittee on Health

WHAT: “Healthy Hiring: Enabling VA to Recruit and Retain Quality Providers”

WHEN: 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-schedule-march-20-24

House Passes Bill Improving VA’s Ability to Hire, Retain High-Quality Providers

House Passes Bill Improving VA’s Ability to Hire, Retain High-Quality Providers
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1367, legislation to improve VA’s ability to recruit and retain high-quality health care providers and other professionals:

“Providing the top-notch health care and benefits our nation’s veterans deserve is impossible without a strong workforce. H.R. 1367 would improve VA’s ability to recruit and retain the very best providers to treat our nation’s heroes, and I thank Rep. Wenstrup for his leadership on this important legislation.”

H.R. 1367, introduced by Rep. Brad Wenstrup, contains a number of provisions that would strengthen VA’s ability to identify staffing shortages, recruit employees to fill vacant positions, quickly on-board new hires, and retain high-performing workers across the country. It also contains provisions that would improve leadership and accountability throughout VA and increase the number of veterans in the federal workforce.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/house-passes-bill-improving-va-s-ability-hire-retain-high-quality-providers

HVAC to Examine VHA’s Ability to Recruit, Retain High-Quality Employees

HVAC to Examine VHA’s Ability to Recruit, Retain High-Quality Employees
On Wednesday, March 22, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. the Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing entitled, “Healthy Hiring: Enabling VA to Recruit and Retain Quality Providers.” This hearing will examine the ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to recruit and retain high quality clinical and administrative employees.

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: Subcommittee on Health

WHAT: “Healthy Hiring: Enabling VA to Recruit and Retain Quality Providers”

WHEN: 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Background:

In 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report which found that, “[VHA’s] limited human resources capacity combined with weak internal control practices has undermined VHA’s [Human Resources] operations and its ability to improve the delivery of health care services to veterans.”

During this hearing, the subcommittee will discuss actions needed to address deficiencies within VHA’s overly bureaucratic and lengthy hiring processes that hinder VA’s ability to recruit and retain high-quality employees, as well as evaluate how staffing needs at the local level are identified and communicated, how recruitment and retention in high-need areas are prioritized and addressed, and whether significant increases in the total number of VHA employees over the last decade have improved the delivery of services to veteran patients.

The subcommittee will also examine the impact of the recent federal hiring freeze on VHA’s workforce, as well as recent media reports alleging that the $2.5 billion dollars that Congress provided to increase hiring of clinical personnel across the VA healthcare system did not result in increased hiring.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-examine-vha-s-ability-recruit-retain-high-quality-employees

House Passes Landmark Accountability Legislation

House Passes Landmark Accountability Legislation
Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed the VA Accountability First Act of 2017 with bipartisan support:

“The VA Accountability First Act will provide Secretary Shulkin the tools he needs to swiftly discipline employees who fail in their mission to provide world-class health care and services to the men and women who served, and I’m proud this bill passed with bipartisan support. This legislation doesn’t just build back the trust of America’s veterans; it gives VA employees the trust to know that bad actors within the department will no longer have the power to taint their good name. I applaud my colleagues’ work today to put veterans first, and I look forward to continuing our progress in creating a culture of accountability at VA.”

Background: A recent study completed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that, on average, it takes six months to a year to remove a permanent civil servant in the Federal Government, though it often takes longer. President Obama’s former VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson testified at a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing on the Choice Program that it was too difficult to fire a substandard VA employee.  In fact, President Obama himself said, “if you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired. Period. It shouldn’t be that difficult.”

In the past several years, VA’s arcane civil service rules have hampered the department’s ability to dismiss an employee that engaged in an armed robbery; discipline a VA nurse that participated in a veteran’s surgery while intoxicated; and hold employees accountable for the continued failures to manage several major construction projects, including the new hospital in Aurora, Colorado, that is now several years and a billion dollars over budget.

Read more at veterans.house.gov/accountability.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/house-passes-landmark-accountability-legislation

The VA must be held accountable. Here’s what Congress needs to do

The VA must be held accountable. Here’s what Congress needs to do
The VA must be held accountable. Here’s what Congress needs to do

By Chairman Phil Roe, M.D.

FoxNews.com

A recent study completed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that, on average, it takes six months to a year to remove a permanent civil servant in the federal government. Oftentimes, it takes even longer.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is not exempt from the red-tape that prevents agency leadership from firing or disciplining employees within their agency.

President Obama’s former VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson testified at a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing on the Choice Program that it was too difficult to fire a substandard VA employee. In fact, President Obama himself said, “if you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired. Period. It shouldn’t be that difficult.”

I’ve said time and time again that the vast majority of the employees at the VA are hard-working and have the best interests of our veterans at heart, but there are still too many bad apples within the department. Our veterans deserve better, and the VA employees who work tirelessly to fulfill their duties deserve better.

In the past several years, VA’s civil service rules have hampered the department’s ability to dismiss an employee who engaged in an armed robbery; to recoup $400,000 in relocation benefits from two senior employees who abused their authority; and hold employees accountable for their failures to manage major construction projects, including the new hospital in Aurora, Colorado, that is now several years and nearly a billion dollars over-budget.

Even worse, the VA said it would have taken up to a year to fire a nurse who assisted in a veteran’s emergency surgery while under the influence of alcohol. The lack of accountability at the VA isn’t just a failure to our heroes; it’s dangerous.

This kind of behavior would never be tolerated in the private-sector, and is even more unacceptable coming from the men and women who are paid by taxpayers to serve our nation’s veterans.

It is past time Congress act in a bipartisan way to make the VA the best agency it can be. That’s why I’ve introduced the VA Accountability First Act, legislation to bring much-needed accountability to the VA.

This important bill, which is being considered by the House this week, would provide Secretary Shulkin the tools he needs to swiftly and effectively discipline employees who fail in their sacred mission to provide world-class healthcare and benefits to the men and women who served.

The VA Accountability First Act, which has strong support from many Veterans Service organizations, would level the playing field at VA and allow for a fair and timely appeal process for all VA employees.

This bill would establish a singular expedited procedure for VA employees to respond and appeal to proposed removals, demotions, and suspensions for misconduct.

The VA Accountability First Act and would bring certainty to the department and VA employees alike by entitling employees to an expedited appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) that would be decided within 45 days.

Currently, it can take up to 264 days for an appeal to move through the process, leaving employees in limbo while their appeals are considered. 

I’m proud this bill would also expand and preserve protections for whistleblowers.

Whistleblowers are critical to the process of uncovering and addressing issues within the department, and I will always fight to ensure they are protected under the law. Additionally, this legislation will provide the Secretary with the direct hiring authority he has requested to hire medical center directors in a more expedient manner. Currently, it takes upwards of six months to fill a position, and this important provision will help fill the leadership vacancies across VA.

Finally, this legislation raises the standards expected of VA employees by providing the Secretary with the authority to recoup a bonus provided to an employee who engaged in misconduct or poor performance prior to receiving the bonus if that bonus would not have been paid if their poor performance or misconduct was known. It would also allow the Secretary to recoup any relocation expenses if that employee commits an act of fraud, waste or malfeasance.

Every VA employee I speak with tells me good employees want to work in an environment where they know everyone can be held accountable for their actions.

The VA Accountability First Act doesn’t just build back the trust of America’s veterans; it gives VA employees the trust to know that bad actors within the department will no longer have the power to taint their good name.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/editorials/va-must-be-held-accountable-here-s-what-congress-needs-do

Committee Leaders Introduce VA Prescription Safety Legislation

Committee Leaders Introduce VA Prescription Safety Legislation
Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee Chairmen Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Jack Bergman (R-MI), along with Ranking Members Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Ann Kuster (D-NH) released the following statements following introduction of the VA Prescription Drug Accountability Act:

“Keeping pressure on the VA when it comes to combating the national prescription drug abuse epidemic is not a Democrat issue or Republican issue – it is an American issue,” said Wenstrup. “I’m pleased to cosponsor this bipartisan bill to close a loophole in VHA’s ability to effectively communicate with state prescription monitoring programs.”

“Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It extends beyond cultural, racial, and socio-economic boundaries and impacts every part of our society—even those who have served and fought for this country,” said Bergman. “That’s why transparency and accountability are so essential in the VA’s internal monitoring and information sharing procedures. I’m proud to support this legislation that takes critical steps to improve those processes and protect our Veterans and their loved ones from the effects of opioid addiction.”

“I co-sponsored the VA Prescription Drug Accountability Act because we need to improve VA’s internal monitoring, and information sharing practices, related to opioid prescription drugs,” said Brownley. “Increasing accountability and transparency will improve the quality of care at the VA and help prevent opioid addiction among veterans.”

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the largest prescribers of narcotics in the country and any effective national prescription drug monitoring program must include the VA,” said Kuster. “Last year, the data for hundreds of thousands of non-Veteran patients seen at the VA were not shared with PDMP programs due to a simple technical oversight, greatly reducing their effectiveness. We are in the grips of a national opioid addiction epidemic and this commonsense reform will help improve the monitoring of opioid prescription drugs, which have helped fuel this crisis.”

Background: This bill, led by Rep. Kuster, would clarify current law to stipulate that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is required to disclose information to state controlled substance monitoring programs for anyone – veteran or non-veteran – who is prescribed these medications through VA.

Under current law, when VHA providers prescribe a controlled substance, VHA is required to disclose that information to the appropriate state controlled substance monitoring program. Due to VistA’s inability to differentiate between dependents and other non-veterans, VHA is currently only transmitting data for veteran patients, leaving out approximately 10% of VHA’s patient population who are dependents or other non-veterans who meet certain qualifications to receive prescriptions from VHA.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/committee-leaders-introduce-va-prescription-safety-legislation

Arrington Introduces Official Time Reform Bill

Arrington Introduces Official Time Reform Bill
Today, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) introduced the Veterans, Employees and Taxpayer (VET) Protection Act.

This bill would require VA to track the use of official time and prohibit employees involved with direct patient care from spending more than 25% of their time on union activities and any VA employee from spending more than 50% of their time on union activities. This legislation would also put an end to forcing VA employees to pay union dues, giving them the freedom to opt out at any time.

“The men and women who raised their right hand and committed to serve deserve nothing but the best. Unfortunately, time and time again, our veterans have not received the care that measures up to this standard of excellence. In fact, several veterans have died waiting for care,” said Arrington. “It is outrageous and unconscionable that VA employees, especially employees who provide much needed health care services, are spending the majority of their time conducting union business instead of fulfilling the duties they were hired to do. The VET Protection Act will go a long way to restore public confidence by ensuring VA is using taxpayer resources wisely appropriately and that employees are focused on their primary mission of serving our nation’s heroes.”

“The mission of the VA isn’t to take care of unions; it’s to take care of veterans” said Roe, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “This legislation will ensure that the well-being of our heroes is prioritized above all else, and I thank subcommittee chairman Arrington for his leadership on this issue.”

Background: Under VA’s current union agreements, union members can use “official time” to conduct union business such as working on employee grievances, addressing bargaining issues and some lobbying efforts while being paid by VA. A Government Accountability Office report found that more than 340 VA employees, including numerous high level health care providers, spend 100% of their time working on union duties instead of the work VA hired them to do. What’s more, VA does not have a standardized system to track how much time its employees spend doing union work.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/arrington-introduces-official-time-reform-bill

Roe, Coffman Statements on Secretary Shulkin’s Intention to Expand Mental Health Care Services

Roe, Coffman Statements on Secretary Shulkin’s Intention to Expand Mental Health Care Services
Today, Reps. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) released the following statements after Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Shulkin’s announcement of his intention to expand mental health care services to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges:

“I take the health and well-being of every man and woman who has served our country very seriously,” said Roe. “I appreciate Secretary Shulkin taking steps to ensure veterans in crisis with other-than-honorable discharges have access to mental health services. With that said, this must be done in a fair, transparent way that ensures no veteran, especially those who have honorably served, are being skipped over for the care they need,” Roe added. “I look forward to continuing this conversation with Secretary Shulkin and Representative Coffman, and I thank them both for their commitment to our nation’s veterans.”

“I was delighted to hear Secretary Shulkin say that he is authorizing mental health assessments and urgent mental healthcare services for our veterans with ‘other than honorable’ discharges,” said Coffman. “This will particularly help those suffering from the ‘invisible’ wounds of combat that can lead to behavioral and other mental health conditions and, sadly in too many cases to an other than honorable discharge.” 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/roe-coffman-statements-secretary-shulkin-s-intention-expand-mental-health-care

H.R. 369, H.R. 1181, H.R. 1259, H.R. 1367, and H.R. 1379

H.R. 369, H.R. 1181, H.R. 1259, H.R. 1367, and H.R. 1379

https://veterans.house.gov/legislation/markups/hr-369-hr-1181-hr-1259-hr-1367-and-hr-1379

HVAC Passes Five Bills Out of Committee

HVAC Passes Five Bills Out of Committee
Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs passed five pieces of legislation:

“Whether it’s creating a culture of accountability at VA, expanding access to quality care or protecting the rights entrusted to our nation’s heroes, these bills will improve the lives of America’s veterans and build a better VA. I am proud to support these important bills and look forward to moving them through the legislative process.” 

Background:

The VA Accountability First Act of 2017, introduced by Chairman Phil Roe, M.D., would provide the VA Secretary increased flexibility to remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee, including Senior Executive Service employees, for performance or misconduct. Click here for more information. Read the bill here.

The Eliminating the Sunset Date of the Choice Act, introduced by Chairman Phil Roe, M.D., would eliminate the statutory sunset date for the Choice Program and instead allow the program to continue until the original funding has been expended. Click here for more information. Read the bill here.

The Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, introduced by Chairman Phil Roe, M.D., would prohibit VA from considering any beneficiary who is assisted by a fiduciary as “mentally defective” without a magistrate or judicial authority ruling that the beneficiary is a danger to themselves or others. Click here for more information. Read the bill here. 

“To improve the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire and retain physicians and other employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes” would establish a recruiting database to make high-quality potential employees aware of positions at VA and create opportunities for career training and advancement for current VA employees through fellowship positions and a promotional track for technical experts. Click here for more information. Read the bill here.

“To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the entitlement to educational assistance under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs for members of the Armed Forces awarded the Purple Heart.” Read the bill here.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/hvac-passes-five-bills-out-committee

Chairman Roe on the Future of VA Community Care

Chairman Roe on the Future of VA Community Care
Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe, M.D., held a hearing to examine the Department of Veterans Affairs Choice Program and the future of VA community care programs, authorities and budget impact. 

You can view Chairman Roe’s opening remarks from today’s hearing here: 

Opening Remarks As Prepared for Delivery:

Though it is somewhat unusual for the Committee to meet in the evening hours, today’s topic is one well worth staying up late for a couple extra hours.

I want to keep our work this evening laser focused on the future – on how we can all work together to create a better, brighter, healthier one for our veterans and for the healthcare system that was built to serve them – rather than on rehashing mistakes that were made long ago. Yet, as we begin to move forward this evening, we must not lose sight of where we started.

Three years ago next month – in this very room – the Committee heard testimony from a veteran named Barry Coates who spoke about waiting almost a year for care from a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility in South Carolina.

When Barry was finally seen – long after he should have been – he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer that had spread to his liver and to his lungs. He passed away in January of last year.

It was Barry’s story – and accompanying allegations that forty veteran patients had died while waiting to receive care from the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona – that kicked off a nationwide access and accountability scandal the likes of which VA had never seen. It also led directly the creation of the Choice program and to the allocation of billions of more taxpayer dollars to increase access to care for veteran patients.

In the three years since then, more than two million authorizations for care have been approved and over one million veterans have been able to get care that otherwise might not have been readily available.

However, all of us around this dais continue to hear from veterans day-after-day experiencing lengthy and frustrating delays when attempting to schedule appointments through VA using Choice.

In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a veteran with a story much like Barry’s. This veteran was diagnosed with cancer last fall and referred to Choice for treatment.

While I am relieved to say that he is now receiving the care that he needs from the provider of his choice he suffered through weeks of doubt due to a series of mishaps and miscommunication between VA, the Third Party Administrator managing Choice in this particular region, and the community provider who had agreed to treat him.

It appears that – three years after Barry’s testimony – a lot has changed but too much has stayed the same.

What’s more, recent work performed by the VA Inspector General (IG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) illustrate very clearly that Choice is not set up to succeed at its primary mission – providing timely care to veteran patients who cannot access that care within VA because it’s not offered, not available within a reasonable amount of time, or would entail the veteran traveling a great distance. 

For example, GAO is going to testify this evening that veterans could potentially wait up to eighty-one calendar days before receiving care due to the burdensome bureaucratic process that VA imposed on Choice. That is unacceptable to me and, I’m sure, everyone in this room.

I ran a practice in East Tennessee for 35 years; I assure you, it does not have to be this complicated and it should most certainly not take this long. Luckily, Choice is not the same program today as it was when it was reviewed by GAO and the IG last year and it is certainly not the program that it was when it was first created.

Through a series of four legislative changes and seventy contract modifications and counting, Choice has been continually improved upon and made stronger. But, it remains far from perfect and, in far too many cases, it fails the very veterans it was created to serve.

I am working diligently with Ranking Member Walz, with the Secretary and his senior leaders, with our Senate colleagues, and with our veteran service organization partners to chart a path forward for Choice and for all of VA’s care in the community programs in short order. I hope to have draft language to share in the coming weeks and to have a VA healthcare reform bill on the President’s desk this year.

However, the first step to reforming Choice is making sure that there is smooth transition to the way ahead. This is why it is critical that this Committee act tomorrow to markup H.R. 369, a bill I introduced earlier this year to remove the current three-year sunset date for the Choice program. 

Absent legislation, Choice will begin shutting down in just a matter of weeks and will end completely five short months from today – cutting off a key access avenue at a time when veterans are seeking care in the community more than ever before and, critically, at a time when VA’s non-Choice community care account is unable to absorb additional demand for care.

VA is already facing a $3.4 billion deficit in the community care account next fiscal year that VA leaders have told Committee staff will require additional appropriations to address.

By removing the sunset date to the Choice program, we are not endorsing the program in its current state but we are ensuring that emergency funds that Congress made available for critical veteran care are used for that purpose until they are expended.

Community care appointments have increased by 61% overall since Choice was created and, last year, 30% of all VA appointments were held in the community rather than in VA medical facilities.

The future of VA relies on not only a strong VA healthcare system but on a VA healthcare system that is inextricably linked with community resources to fill the gaps and meet the needs of our veterans when and where they are. 

We must get this right and learn from the mistakes, miscommunication, and undue bureaucratic processes that have plagued Choice since its inception not only for the veterans who depend on this system today but also for generations of American heroes to come.

That is what I am committing to once again this evening. 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-roe-future-va-community-care

NEW TIME: HVAC to Hold Legislative Markup

NEW TIME: HVAC to Hold Legislative Markup
Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, at 11:00 a.m., the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a markup of pending legislation.

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

WHAT: Markup of Pending Legislation

WHEN: 11:00 a.m., Wednesday, March 8, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/new-time-hvac-hold-legislative-markup

H.R. 369, H.R. 1181, H.R. 1259, H.R. 1367, and Draft Legislation, To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the entitlement to educational assistance under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the Department of Veterans Affair…

H.R. 369, H.R. 1181, H.R. 1259, H.R. 1367, and Draft Legislation, To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the entitlement to educational assistance under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the Department of Veterans Affair…

https://veterans.house.gov/legislation/markups/hr-369-hr-1181-hr-1259-hr-1367-and-draft-legislation-amend-title-38-united

Wenstrup Introduces Bill Improving VA’s Ability to Hire, Retain High-Quality Providers

Wenstrup Introduces Bill Improving VA’s Ability to Hire, Retain High-Quality Providers
Today, Subcommittee on Health Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) introduced legislation to improve VA’s ability to recruit and retain high-quality healthcare providers and other professionals.

“Ultimately, the people who suffer the most from bureaucratic hiring inefficiencies at VA hospitals are the veterans they are here to serve,” said Chairman Wenstrup. “When attracting highly-qualified candidates is a challenge for Veterans’ Affairs hospitals, access to care, quality of care and wait times for veterans suffer. Streamlining and updating the VA hiring process of doctors and hospital staff is a critical step towards providing our heroes the medical care they have earned and deserve.”

“Ensuring our nation’s heroes receive the best quality health care means ensuring they are treated by the very best providers,” said Roe, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I applaud Rep. Wenstrup for introducing this legislation so that high-quality professionals are encouraged to head to VA for their careers.”

Background: Providing the top-notch health care and benefits our nation’s veterans deserve is impossible without a strong workforce, and VA’s inability to retain high-quality employees is hindering the quality of care veterans receive. A 2016 Best Places to Work survey ranked the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) second to last for large agencies overall, second to last in effective leadership and dead last in pay. The survey also found that the number of VA employees resigning or retiring has risen every year since 2009.

This bill would establish a recruiting database to make high-quality potential employees aware of positions at VA and create opportunities for career training and advancement for current VA employees through fellowship positions and a promotional track for technical experts. It would also require VA to measure and collect certain information regarding hiring effectiveness and train human resource employees in recruitment and retention methods.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/wenstrup-introduces-bill-improving-va-s-ability-hire-retain-high-quality

H.R. 369, H.R. 1181, H.R. 1259, Draft Legislation, To improve the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire and retain physician and other employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Draft Legislation, To amend title 38, United…

H.R. 369, H.R. 1181, H.R. 1259, Draft Legislation, To improve the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire and retain physician and other employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Draft Legislation, To amend title 38, United…

https://veterans.house.gov/legislation/markups/hr-369-hr-1181-hr-1259-draft-legislation-improve-authority-secretary-veterans

Markup of Pending Legislation

Markup of Pending Legislation

https://veterans.house.gov/legislation/markups/markup-pending-legislation-0

HVAC to Host Modern-Day Learning Round Table

HVAC to Host Modern-Day Learning Round Table
On Thursday, March 9, at 2:00 p.m. the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity will host a round table discussion on the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill to explore ways to make modern-day learning avenues more accessible for service members and veterans.

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

WHAT: Roundtable Discussion on Modern-Day Learning Avenues for Veterans

WHEN: 2:00 p.m., Thursday, March 9, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Background: As the realm of higher education continues to evolve, the ways students are learning and the courses they are pursuing in modern-day society differs from even a decade ago. Although the G.I. Bill has been enhanced since its enactment in 1944, there are still many types of training and education programs that are still not accessible to student veterans through the G.I. Bill today. 

This round table will explore the reality of higher education in today’s society, as well as opportunities for innovative learning and improving education benefits for future generations of veterans.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-host-modern-day-learning-round-table

Bost, Esty Introduce Bills to Provide Cost-of-Living Adjustment to Veterans

Bost, Esty Introduce Bills to Provide Cost-of-Living Adjustment to Veterans
Today, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) Chairman Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Ranking Member Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) introduced two bills, the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2017 and the American Heroes COLA Act of 2017, to provide a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to veterans.

“I am proud to introduce these bills to provide important cost-of-living adjustments to our nation’s veterans and their dependents,” said DAMA Subcommittee Chairman Bost. “These measures have received bipartisan support in the past, and I thank Ranking Member Esty for joining me in this important effort. I look forward to leading my colleagues to ensure the men and women who have served receive the benefits they have earned.”

“It is an honor to join with Chairman Bost to introduce these bipartisan bills that will provide a cost-of-living adjustment to our veterans and their families,” said DAMA Subcommittee Ranking Member Esty. “Our veterans – and their loved ones – sacrificed so much on behalf of our nation to earn these important benefits. We have an obligation to provide them with the resources they need to keep up with the rising costs of living. I urge my colleagues to join with us in supporting these important measures and look forward to continuing our work together in service to those who have worn the uniform.”

The Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2017 would provide a cost-of-living increase for wartime disability compensation; compensation for dependents; clothing allowance; dependency and indemnity compensation to surviving spouses; and, dependency and indemnity compensation to children paid to our wounded warriors and their families for injuries they suffered while serving our nation in uniform. This increase would begin December 1. You can read the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2017 here.

Social Security beneficiaries’ COLAs are automatic and do not require Congressional authorization each year. The American Heroes COLA Act of 2017 would authorize the VA Secretary to provide automatic annual COLAs to wartime disability compensation; additional compensation for dependents; clothing allowance; dependency and indemnity compensation to surviving spouses; and, dependency and indemnity compensation to children paid to our wounded warriors and their families for injuries they suffered while serving our nation without having to seek Congressional approval. You can read the American Heroes COLA Act of 2017 here.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/bost-esty-introduce-bills-provide-cost-living-adjustment-veterans

HVAC to Examine VA Choice Program

HVAC to Examine VA Choice Program
On Tuesday, March 7, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe, M.D., will hold a hearing entitled, “Shaping the Future: Consolidating and Improving VA Community Care.” This hearing will examine the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Choice Program and the future of VA community care programs, authorities and budget impact.

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

WHAT: “Shaping the Future: Consolidating and Improving VA Community Care”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 7, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov

 

WITNESS LIST

The Honorable John McCain

U.S. Senate

Arizona

 

The Honorable David J. Shulkin M.D.

Secretary

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

 

Accompanied by:

Baligh Yehia M.D.

Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Community Care

Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

 

The Honorable Michael J. Missal

Inspector General

Office of the Inspector General

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

 

Randy Williamson

Director, Health Care

Government Accountability Office

 

Statement for the Record

The American Legion

Disabled American Veterans

Paralyzed Veterans of America

 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-examine-va-choice-program

Roe Statement on President Trump’s Joint Address to Congress

Roe Statement on President Trump’s Joint Address to Congress
Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement in response to President Donald J. Trump’s joint address to Congress:

“I’m pleased that President Trump reaffirmed his commitment to honor every man and woman who has worn the uniform of our great nation this evening. I look forward to continuing to work with President Trump and his administration as we strive to instill a culture of accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and – most importantly – as we continue the fight to ensure every veteran has access to the quality care and benefits they have earned.”
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/roe-statement-president-trump-s-joint-address-congress-2

Chairman Roe Introduces Legislation to Bring Accountability to VA

Chairman Roe Introduces Legislation to Bring Accountability to VA
Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) introduced the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. The bill would provide the VA Secretary increased flexibility to remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee, including Senior Executive Service employees, for poor performance or misconduct.

It would also provide improved protections for whistleblowers; would allow the Secretary to reduce an employee’s federal pension if they are convicted of a felony that influenced their job at VA; recoup a bonus provided to an employee who engaged in misconduct or poor performance prior to receiving the bonus; and would allow the Secretary to recoup any relocation expenses that were authorized for a VA employee only through the employee’s ill-gotten means, such as fraud waste or malfeasance.

“I’ve said time and time again that the vast majority of the employees at the VA are hardworking and have the best interests of our veterans at heart, but there are still too many bad apples within the department. Our veterans deserve better, and the VA employees who fulfill their duties deserve better,” said Roe. “I’m proud to have worked with President Trump and his administration on this legislation to bring long overdue accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs.”    

Background: A recent study completed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that, on average, it takes six months to a year, to remove a permanent civil servant in the Federal Government, though it often takes longer. Just last year, former VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson testified at a hearing that it was too hard to fire bad employees at VA.

In the past several years, VA’s arcane civil service rules have hampered the department’s ability to dismiss an employee that engaged in an armed robbery; discipline a VA nurse that participated in a veteran’s surgery while intoxicated; and hold employees accountable for the continued failures to manage several major construction projects, including the new hospital in Aurora, Colorado, that is now several years and a billion dollars over budget.

Read more at veterans.house.gov/accountability. 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-roe-introduces-legislation-bring-accountability-va

Chairman Bergman Opening Statement

Chairman Bergman Opening Statement
Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), held a hearing to examine a recently released GAO report’s findings that lack of oversight and internal controls for prescription opioids and employee accountability put VA medical centers at risk for drug diversion.

You can view Chairman Bergman’s opening remarks from today’s hearing here: 

Opening remarks as prepared for delivery:

Today, we will address the lack of oversight and internal controls regarding controlled substances within the Veterans Health Administration that leave facilities open to drug diversion and veteran harm.

The diversion of drugs from VA health care facilities is an incredible patient safety issue that puts veterans, VA employees, and the public at tremendous risk.  Unfortunately, the news has recently been filled with story after story of drug diversion within VA.  In Little Rock, Arkansas, a VA pharmacy technician reportedly used his access to medical suppliers’ websites to order and divert 4,000 oxycodone pills, over 3,000 hydrocodone pills, and more than 14,000 Viagra and Cialis pills at a cost to VA of more than $70,000.  This technician was allegedly selling these drugs on the street where they had a value of more than $160,000.  At a VA facility in Florida, a registered nurse was apparently stealing oxycodone and hydromorphone from the hospital to feed her addiction.  Keep in mind, these are medications that should have been going to veterans for their care.

These issues are in part a result of VA having inadequate procedures in place to safeguard against theft and diversion of controlled substances.  A recent Government Accountability Office audit requested by this Committee found that one VA medical center missed 43% of their required monthly inspections, mostly in critical care areas such as the operating room and the intensive care unit.  In addition, three other facilities did not follow all of VHA’s requirements for inspections of controlled substances.  This is not the first instance where weaknesses were identified in VA’s controlled substance inspection program. 

In 2009 and 2014, the VA Office of Inspector General found that some medical facilities were not conducting monthly inspections and some inspections were incomplete.  VA has been given multiple opportunities to address these concerns. This leaves me wondering what VA is doing to repair the lax oversight and apparent absence of accountability regarding these issues within VHA.  To make matters worse, there are also issues with drug testing employees to ensure that they suitable to provide care to veterans.

A 2015 Office of Inspector General report found that VA medical centers were not conducting pre-employment and random drug tests for testing designated positions in many instances across VHA, which amounted to tens of thousands of employees not receiving drug tests required by the Drug Free Workplace program.  Most recently, in January 2017, the OIG found high backlogs in background checks, to include drug testing, for high-risk positions at the Atlanta VA Medical Center.  It is precisely these tools that have been put in place to help protect patients and health care organizations from drug diversion and harm, however VA does not seem to be taking them as seriously as it should.

Based on the oversight reports and the numerous diversion incidents we will discuss today, I am concerned that VA’s controlled substance oversight program is not working and that staff who fail to follow proper procedures are not being held accountable for violations.  In case after case, what we see are examples of drugs being diverted for personal use or personal gain, yet there does not seem to be much progress being made by VA to correct the glaring problems that allow it to happen.  What is even more concerning is that programs to help deter diversion or identify illegal employee drug use are not being implemented consistently within the VA health system. 

We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and it is time for VA to start making effective changes to avoid putting veterans and the employees who serve them at risk.  
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-bergman-opening-statement

HVAC Schedule February 27 – March 3

HVAC Schedule February 27 – March 3
Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) today released the hearing schedule for February 27 – March 3.

The following events are open to the press:

 

WHO: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

WHAT: “Assessing VA’s Risks for Drug Diversion”

WHEN: 3:30 p.m., Monday,  February 27, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov

 

WHO: House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees

WHAT: “Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans”

WHEN: 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, February 28, 2017

WHERE: Senate Dirksen Ground Floor Room 50 and streaming at veterans.senate.gov

 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-schedule-february-27-march-3

HVAC/SVAC Joint Hearing to receive the Legislative Presentation of The American Legion

HVAC/SVAC Joint Hearing to receive the Legislative Presentation of The American Legion

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hvacsvac-joint-hearing-receive-legislative-presentation-american-legion

HVAC/SVAC Hearing to receive the Legislative Presentation of The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

HVAC/SVAC Hearing to receive the Legislative Presentation of The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hvacsvac-hearing-receive-legislative-presentation-veterans-foreign-wars-united-states

House, Senate Veterans Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members Announce VSO Hearings

House, Senate Veterans Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members Announce VSO Hearings
Today, House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs Chairmen Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), along with Ranking Members Tim Walz (D-Minn.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) announced upcoming bicameral hearings with Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs).

The members released the following statements:

“Veterans Service Organizations are critical advocates for our nation’s heroes,” said Chairman Roe. “I look forward to hearing their legislative priorities and ideas for VA reform.”

“Our Veterans Service Organizations work tirelessly on behalf of our nation’s veterans,” said Chairman Isakson. “I am grateful for their commitment to working together with Congress and the VA to ensure veterans have the best possible care and support that they deserve.”

“Maintaining strong relationships with Veterans Service Organizations is a critical step in achieving results for those who have served. Their perspective and experience is second to none,” said Ranking Member Walz. “I look forward to continuing our conversation in order to improve and expand veteran-centered care in communities across the United States.”

“Congress should be taking its cues from America’s veterans,” said Ranking Member Tester. “Veterans Service Organizations provide important perspective on how veterans are affected by VA policies and I look forward to hearing their recommendations on how to hold the VA accountable, improve access to timely and quality care, and ensure veterans and their families are provided the benefits they have earned.”  

 

The following events are open to the press:

WHAT: Joint Hearing of House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to Receive Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans

WHEN: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: SD-G50, Streaming at veterans.senate.gov.

 

WHAT: Joint Hearing of House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to Receive Legislative Presentation of the American Legion

WHEN: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: SD-G50, Streaming at veterans.senate.gov.

 

WHAT: Joint Hearing of House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to Receive Legislative Presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars

WHEN: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: SD-G50, Streaming at veterans.senate.gov.

 

WHAT: Joint Hearing of House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to Receive Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organizations

WHEN: Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: SD-G50, Streaming at veterans.senate.gov.

PARTICIPANTS: PVA, AUSN, AMVETS, VVA, NCOA, GSW, NASDVA, WWP, NGAUS

 

WHAT: Joint Hearing of House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to Receive Legislative Presentation of Multiple Veterans Service Organizations

WHEN: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: SD-G50, Streaming at veterans.senate.gov.

PARTICIPANTS: JWV, FRA,  AFSA, MOPH, American Ex-POW, BVA, TREA, IAVA

 

Media planning to attend should RSVP to Majority_Press@vetaff.senate.gov.

 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/house-senate-veterans-committee-chairmen-and-ranking-members-announce-vso

HVAC/SVAC Hearing to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

HVAC/SVAC Hearing to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

https://veterans.house.gov/legislation/business-meetings/hvacsvac-hearing-receive-legislative-presentation-veterans-foreign

HVAC/SVAC Hearing to receive the Legislative Presentations from Multiple Veterans Service Organizations (JWV, FRA, AFSA, MOPH, American Ex-POW, BVA, TREA, IAVA)

HVAC/SVAC Hearing to receive the Legislative Presentations from Multiple Veterans Service Organizations (JWV, FRA, AFSA, MOPH, American Ex-POW, BVA, TREA, IAVA)

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hvacsvac-hearing-receive-legislative-presentations-multiple-veterans-service-organizations

HVAC to Assess VA’s Risks for Drug Diversion

HVAC to Assess VA’s Risks for Drug Diversion
On Monday, February 27, 2017, at 3:30 p.m. the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing entitled, “Assessing VA’s Risks for Drug Diversion.”

The hearing will examine a recently released GAO report’s findings that lack of oversight and internal controls for prescription opioids and employee accountability put VA medical centers at risk for drug diversion. The Associated Press recently highlighted this report and spoke to Chairman Roe about the next steps.

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

WHAT: “Assessing VA’s Risks for Drug Diversion”

WHEN: 3:30 p.m., Monday, February 27, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-assess-va-s-risks-drug-diversion

“Assessing VA’s Risks for Drug Diversion”

“Assessing VA’s Risks for Drug Diversion”

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/assessing-va-s-risks-drug-diversion

Roe, Wenstrup & Conaway Introduce Bill to Protect Veterans’ 2nd Amendment Rights

Roe, Wenstrup & Conaway Introduce Bill to Protect Veterans’ 2nd Amendment Rights
Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN), along with Reps. Brad Wenstrup, DPM (R-OH) and Mike Conaway (R-TX), introduced the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act. This bill would prohibit VA from considering any beneficiary who is assisted by a fiduciary as “mentally defective” without a magistrate or judicial authority ruling that the beneficiary is a danger to themselves or others.

“The freedoms granted by the Constitution should apply to all Americans—especially the men and women who have been willing to risk their lives to protect those freedoms,” said Roe. “This commonsense bill would ensure no veteran or beneficiary is declared ‘mentally defective’ simply because they utilize a fiduciary.”

“For the men and women who have worn the uniform of this country to be denied the very constitutional freedoms that they fought for is unconscionable,” said Wenstrup. “Veterans shouldn’t be forced to choose between utilizing the resources they’ve earned at the VA and exercising their Second Amendment rights. As a veteran myself, I am honored to work with my colleagues, Chairman Roe and Congressman Conaway, to ensure no veteran is denied their constitutional rights due to bureaucratic overreach.”

“All too often, government bureaucracies fail the heroic men and women who have fought for our freedom,” said Conaway. “In this case, the same department that was created to help our veterans is taking away one of their most important constitutional rights: the right to bear arms. I’m glad to have Chairman Roe and Congressman Wenstrup on board with this important legislation to ensure that no veteran is wrongly denied their rights under the very Constitution they served to protect.”

Background: Under current practice, if a veteran or beneficiary is appointed a fiduciary from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), they are labeled as mentally incompetent in VA’s system, and the department automatically sends the veteran’s name to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Inclusion on the NICS list may prohibit the beneficiary from legally purchasing or owning a firearm. A beneficiary may apply for relief from the firearms prohibitions included in current policy, but that leaves a VA bureaucrat – not a magistrate or other judicial authority – with the power to determine whether or not relief is warranted.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/roe-wenstrup-conaway-introduce-bill-protect-veterans-2nd-amendment-rights

Opening Statement: Chairman Arrington

Opening Statement: Chairman Arrington
Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, chaired by Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX), held a hearing to examine union activities at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

You can view Chairman Arrington’s opening remarks from today’s hearing here: 

Opening remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you Chairman Meadows and thank you all for being here with us today.

This is my first official hearing as Chairman of the VA Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and I am pleased to partner with Chairman Meadows and other members to discuss this very important issue today.

I believe we can all agree that the mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs is to care for those who have borne the battle.

This is more than a government agency mission – this is a sacred honor and sacred responsibility for every VA employee and every American.

The men and women who have raised their right hand to serve and who have been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, deserve nothing but the best service and care worthy of their commitment to our country.

Unfortunately, time and time again, situations have come to light where the care our veterans were receiving did not measure up to this standard of excellence.

Now here we are, almost 3 years later after the Phoenix and agency-wide waitlist scandal, where several veterans died waiting for care and yet the same problems still persist – veterans are still waiting way too long to receive an appointment, and veterans and their families are still waiting far too long to have their disability compensation claims adjudicated and their appeals decided upon.

In fact, VA’s own statistics indicate that there are over 45,000 vacancies within the Veterans’ Health Administration and the claims backlog for disability claims has recently increased by 33% and well over 460,000 appeals are pending.

These statistics are absolutely unacceptable, but they are the shameful reality of the current state of affairs at the VA.

I want to be clear – that the purpose of this hearing is not to completely discredit any use of official time within VA or across the Federal government at large – after all, it is allowed under current law.

We must, however, ask ourselves this question: Are we going to fulfill the mission of the VA and provide excellent service to our veterans or are we going to perpetuate a broken bureaucracy and a culture of self-service and unaccountability?

I am grateful to the Government Accountability Office for taking on this large task of looking at the use of official time at VA and how the Department is tracking its use as well as space at facilities used for union activities.

I am very troubled by their findings that the VA is not accurately or sufficiently tracking how much time employees are using on official time and that the data that we do have from VA is unreliable at best.

This concerns me on a number of levels.

Are people taking advantage of the system? I would conclude that most likely yes they are, because whether intentional or not, without an accountable system, there is no consistent means to track official time even if you wanted to – as the old saying goes – you can’t manage, what you can’t measure.

This issue brings me to something that concerns me even more. Not only are some individuals spending 100% of their working days doing union activities while receiving their tax-payer funded salaries, but some individuals are receiving their tax-payer funded salaries AND are not even being appropriately tracked for what they are doing with the time that they are not directly serving our veterans – doing the jobs they were hired to do.

As someone who has overseen multitudes of different staffs throughout my professional career, I cannot fathom an instance where I would be paying someone a tax-payer funded salary to do a job that I can’t even account for at the end of the day.

And what is even more troubling, is that this recent GAO report is not our first discovery that official time is not being tracked – this is not a new revelation.

There have been GAO studies done in 1979, 1981, and 1996 recommending that time spent on union activities needs to be better tracked. Yet, here we are, in 2017, still having the same conversation and GAO still making the same recommendations. This is insane!

I understand that both sides of the aisle are not going to always agree on to what extent unions should be involved or the power that they should hold in the Federal government. But I know we can all agree that the Department of Veterans Affairs should place the needs of our veterans above all else, and I’m very concerned that in this current environment – this is not the case.

We have doctors, nurses, medical assistants, addiction therapists, pharmacists, disability claims raters, senior raters, schedulers, social workers – and the list goes on – serving on official time, many of them on 100% official time and many making over six figures.

This means we have hundreds, if not thousands, of VA employees spending part –and sometimes all – of their working days serving the union instead of directly serving our veterans – again, the job they were hired to do.

I understand that union representatives are supposed to serve the employees of a VA facility whether it is through grievances or management relations, which in turn, one could argue, serves the overall facility’s function.

But you would be hard-pressed to convince me, or any reasonable person, that a physician making over $200,000 a year – paid for by the taxpayers – is best utilized sitting in an office dealing with union grievances for 100% of their working day rather than standing by a bedside providing care to a veteran.

The standard for official time is to use it on “representational work” that is “reasonable, necessary, and in the public’s interest.” I don’t believe the average American would see this as reasonable or in the public’s interest. In fact, I think they would be outraged!

I came to Congress, as we all did, to make a difference and to root out the real problems facing our country and find real solutions; and while this hearing today is not going to completely resolve all of the issues related to official time and union activities on the tax-payer’s dime, I think this discussion is necessary and pertinent as we continue to reform and fix the VA as a whole.

I thank the witnesses for being here and I look forward to your testimony.

Thank you Chairman Meadows and I yield back.

 

 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/opening-statement-chairman-arrington

Roe, Walz Statement on GAO Continuing to Categorize the Veterans Health Administration As High-Risk

Roe, Walz Statement on GAO Continuing to Categorize the Veterans Health Administration As High-Risk
Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-Minn.) released the following statements after the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) was kept on GAO’s High-Risk List:

“As chairman, I take the findings of this report very seriously,” said Roe. “While this information is not new, it certainly underscores that the Veterans Health Administration has not made enough progress towards providing quality care for our veterans. As I’ve said time and time again, VA should have the resources necessary to serve veterans, but we must also take a close look at how the department is allocating the resources they’ve been entrusted. I will continue to work with Ranking Member Walz to conduct diligent oversight of VA and hold the department accountable to both our nation’s heroes and taxpayers.”

“The findings of GAO’s 2017 report are concerning,” Rep. Walz said. “It is imperative that VA and VHA leaders take this report seriously and act without delay to ensure veterans have the quality healthcare they expect and deserve. We all have a responsibility to ensure the VA has the resources they need to provide quality, timely care for veterans and Dr. Roe and I will continue our bipartisan work to put outcomes for veterans first.”

Background: In 2015, GAO added the VHA to their High-Risk List because of five key areas of concern including: ambiguous policies and inconsistent processes; inadequate oversight and accountability; information technology (IT) challenges; inadequate staff training; and unclear resource needs and allocation priorities. The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ first full committee hearing of the 115th Congress examined VA’s IT systems, one of the areas GAO listed as cause for concern.

Today’s report underscored the need for VA to continue their action plan to utilize GAO’s recommendations and address its high-risk designation. 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/roe-walz-statement-gao-continuing-categorize-veterans-health-administration-high

“Resolution to assign Congressman Kilili Sablan, Congresswoman Esty, and Congressman Scott Peters to HVAC Subcommittees”

“Resolution to assign Congressman Kilili Sablan, Congresswoman Esty, and Congressman Scott Peters to HVAC Subcommittees”

https://veterans.house.gov/legislation/business-meetings/resolution-assign-congressman-kilili-sablan-congresswoman-esty-and

NEW TIME: Veterans’ Affairs and Oversight Subcommittees to Examine Union Activities at VA

NEW TIME: Veterans’ Affairs and Oversight Subcommittees to Examine Union Activities at VA
On Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 12:30 p.m. the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Government Operations will hold a joint hearing entitled, “The Use of Official Time for Union Activities at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Government Operations

WHAT: “The Use of Official Time for Union Activities at the Department of Veterans Affairs”

WHEN: 12:30 p.m., Thursday,  February 16, 2017

WHERE: 2154 Rayburn House Office Building and streaming here

 

Background: Official time refers to the time union officials spend working on union business while being paid by the VA. Union members use official time to represent employees, intervene and mitigate any issues with management, conduct certain lobbying activities, as well as other bargaining activities.

VA allocates a certain amount of official time to the unions as part of their collective bargaining agreements at both the national and local levels, and the department is supposed to carefully monitor it to ensure union officials are not exceeding the agreed upon amount of time. 

A January 2017 GAO report discovered that VA does not have a standardized system to track how many hours union members spend working on union duties during VA work hours, meaning VA does not have an accurate grasp on how much money is spent on union activity while an employee is on official time.

Although VA has reported that at least 346 employees spent 100% of their work hours at VA conducting union business and VA employees across the department spent over one million hours on official time in fiscal year 2015, GAO believes that this data from VA is likely unreliable due to the inconsistencies in VA’s tracking of official time.

This hearing will discuss the findings of the GAO report, as well as examine how VA uses official time for union activities and how this use relates to the department’s overall mission.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/new-time-veterans-affairs-and-oversight-subcommittees-examine-union-activities

Roe Statement on Dr. Shulkin’s Confirmation

Roe Statement on Dr. Shulkin’s Confirmation
Today, Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after the Senate voted to confirm Dr. David Shulkin as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):

“I congratulate incoming Secretary Shulkin on his confirmation, and I look forward to meeting with him later this week to discuss VA reform. President Trump has made it clear that wholesale reform of VA is a top priority for his administration, and I’m confident we can work together to ensure our heroes have timely access to the services and benefits they’ve earned. There is much work ahead, but the men and women who have served our country deserve better than the status quo. As chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I am committed to bringing accountability and reform to the department, and I know incoming Secretary Shulkin is as well.”   
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/roe-statement-dr-shulkin-s-confirmation

Roe Statement on House Passage of Veterans Legislation

Roe Statement on House Passage of Veterans Legislation
Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after four bills to boost veteran employment, honor our nation’s heroes and improve veterans’ experience with VA’s claims process passed the House of Representatives with broad, bipartisan support:

“The men and women who have fought for our great nation should never have to struggle to find a job or stumble through VA’s claims process. These commonsense bills will help us keep the promises we’ve made to our servicemembers by creating incentives to boost veteran hiring and by making it easier and faster for Congressional offices to help veterans receive information about their VA claims. I’m proud of the work the House has done today to honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s heroes, and I look forward to getting these bipartisan bills signed into law.”

Background:

H.R. 974, the Boosting Rates of American Veteran Employment (BRAVE) Act, would boost veteran employment by allowing VA to give preference when awarding procurement contracts to government contractors who employ veterans on a fulltime basis. The bill would also allow the VA Secretary to debar companies that purposely provide false numbers regarding their employment of veterans in order to receive preference in receiving a contract.

H.R. 244, the HIRE Vets Act, as amended, would require the Department of Labor to establish a HIRE Vets Medallion Program to recognize companies for their efforts to employ veterans. Under the program, the Department of Labor would annually give HIRE Vets Medallion Awards to private and public sector businesses that recruit, employ and retain veterans and businesses that provide supportive services to the veteran community.

H.R. 512, the WINGMAN Act, would make it easier and faster for Congressional offices to help veterans receive information about their VA claims. The bill would allow designated permanent, full time Congressional staffers to look up the status of a veteran’s claim on VA’s database if the veteran has given the staffer permission. Staffers would have read-only access to VA’s databases, meaning they wouldn’t be able to add or remove any information.

H.R. 609 would designate the Department of Veterans Affairs health care center in Center Township, Butler County, Penn., as the “Abie Abraham VA Clinic,” in honor of World War II veteran Abie Abraham.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/roe-statement-house-passage-veterans-legislation

HVAC Schedule February 13 – 17

HVAC Schedule February 13 – 17
Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) today released the hearing schedule for February 13 – 17.

The following events are open to the press:

 

WHO: Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

WHAT: “Exploring National Work Queue’s Impact on Claims Processing”

WHEN: 10:30 a.m., Tuesday,  February 14, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building

 

WHO: House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Government Operations

WHAT: “The Use of Official Time for Union Activities at the Department of Veterans Affairs”

WHEN: 2:00 p.m., Thursday,  February 16, 2017

WHERE: 2154 Rayburn House Office Building 

 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-schedule-february-13-17

Veterans’ Affairs and Oversight Subcommittees to Examine Union Activities at VA

Veterans’ Affairs and Oversight Subcommittees to Examine Union Activities at VA
On Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Government Operations will hold a joint hearing entitled, “The Use of Official Time for Union Activities at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Government Operations

WHAT: “The Use of Official Time for Union Activities at the Department of Veterans Affairs”

WHEN: 2:00 p.m., Thursday,  February 16, 2017

WHERE: 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

 

Background: Official time refers to the time union officials spend working on union business while being paid by the VA. Union members use official time to represent employees, intervene and mitigate any issues with management, conduct certain lobbying activities, as well as other bargaining activities.

VA allocates a certain amount of official time to the unions as part of their collective bargaining agreements at both the national and local levels, and the department is supposed to carefully monitor it to ensure union officials are not exceeding the agreed upon amount of time. 

A January 2017 GAO report discovered that VA does not have a standardized system to track how many hours union members spend working on union duties during VA work hours, meaning VA does not have an accurate grasp on how much money is spent on union activity while an employee is on official time.

Although VA has reported that at least 346 employees spent 100% of their work hours at VA conducting union business and VA employees across the department spent over one million hours on official time in fiscal year 2015, GAO believes that this data from VA is likely unreliable due to the inconsistencies in VA’s tracking of official time.

This hearing will discuss the findings of the GAO report, as well as examine how VA uses official time for union activities and how this use relates to the department’s overall mission.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/veterans-affairs-and-oversight-subcommittees-examine-union-activities-va-0

“The Use of Official Time for Union Activities at the Department of Veterans Affairs”

“The Use of Official Time for Union Activities at the Department of Veterans Affairs”

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/use-official-time-union-activities-department-veterans-affairs

Chairman Roe: Modern IT Systems Are Essential at VA

Chairman Roe: Modern IT Systems Are Essential at VA
Yesterday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe, M.D., held a hearing to examine the major Information Technology (IT) modernization projects and programs underway at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Following the hearing, Chairman Roe and Ranking Member Tim Walz sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs requesting that the VA provide the committee with quarterly status reports on major IT projects. The letter also asks for clarification of VA’s testimony regarding the Digital Health Platform and the department’s ongoing scheduling projects.

You can read the full text of the letter here:

You can watch Chairman Roe’s opening remarks from yesterday’s hearing here: 

 

Opening Remarks As Prepared for Delivery:

We begin the 115th Congress examining IT because it is so important to everything VA does and everything we all hope to accomplish as part of the department’s transformation. From delivering timely care to veterans, to ensuring that medical records follow the patient, to making benefits decisions accurately, modern IT systems are essential. 

This year and next are pivotal because the Department has major decisions to make about how to modernize its systems.VA is also beginning several projects they have attempted with poor results in the past, and now is the last chance to get them right.

Let’s start with VistA, the electronic health records system that performs so many other administrative functions. The Choice Act Independent Assessment in 2015 was an invaluable study of VistA. It explained the weaknesses and complexities that have accumulated in the system over the last twenty years and recommended that VA send Congress a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of keeping VistA or changing course. 

Then in 2016, the Commission on Care recommended VA retire VistA in favor of commercial-off-the-shelf software. However, the VistA Evolution program was already well underway when these recommendations were issued. VistA Evolution attempts to catch the system up and put it on a stable course for the future. It is the third major attempt to modernize VistA in the past decade. Retaining or replacing VistA is a make-or-break decision for VA and must be made deliberatively and objectively. 

While the Department provided some cost-benefit analysis before and after the Independent Assessment, it was never as thorough as intended. Senior officials have testified to this Committee, and said elsewhere, that they accept the Commission on Care recommendation. But what that means in practice has become less and less clear. VistA Evolution is now in its fourth of five years, and I understand the desire to finish it.VA must judge it realistically against concrete goals. If it falls short, moving the goal posts is unacceptable.

Another key system is the Electronic Health Management Platform, or EHMP, which is also part of VistA Evolution and due next year. This is supposed to settle the medical record interoperability issue with DOD once and for all. After changing course so many times over the years and then putting an interim solution in place, VA has a great deal riding on EHMP. I look forward to hearing about the plan to finish it.

VHA also still badly needs a modern scheduling system, and both sides of the aisle are united to make sure it finally gets done this year. The Faster Care for Veterans Act puts commercial self-scheduling software in competition with VA’s VistA self-scheduling project and sets high standards for them both. If either one cannot meet the standards it must be eliminated. 

VA announced in the media that the VistA project, called VAR, would be rolled out in January. Since that did not occur, the Committee would like to know what happened. Rounding out the list, last year this Committee highlighted upgrades to the system used to process community providers’ claims that had not been implemented. There has been some progress but the situation is far from perfect. 

Similarly, the Veterans Benefits Management System has advanced at great cost, but still cannot handle appeals or all types of claims. Further, after two previous attempts, VA is again trying to replace its antiquated financial systems. This time the plan is to adopt an existing system used by the Agriculture Department rather than build it. 

That is very encouraging, but it is a complicated, delicate project. Congress recognizes the depth of the technology needed by VA. To that end, we have increased the IT appropriation more than 7% on average throughout the last five years. All of these programs, and others we will address today, must use tax dollars responsibly. That is why the Inspector General report released last week on the failed cloud services broker contracts is so troubling. Unnecessary data centers are a big problem that devour VA’s budget. These contracts were an effort to push the Department into the cloud and make headway in consolidating the data centers. 

But $5.3 million was wasted and nothing useful was produced. That $5.3 million could pay for so many other things, for instance 70 entry-level nurses in Johnson City, Tennessee. Every account in the budget affects every other account, and we have to start thinking that way.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-roe-modern-it-systems-are-essential-va

HVAC to Examine VA Claims Processing System

HVAC to Examine VA Claims Processing System
On Tuesday, February 14, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs will host a hearing entitled, “Exploring National Work Queue’s Impact on Claims Processing.” The hearing will examine the Department of Veterans Affairs’ implementation of the National Work Queue (NWQ).

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

WHAT: “Exploring National Work Queue’s Impact on Claims Processing”

WHEN: 10:30 a.m., Tuesday,  February 14, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Background: Prior to the NWQ model, VA would broker claims out to other regional offices (RO) to better distribute workload. However, the brokering process depended on VA employees to determine which cases to broker to other ROs.

NWQ is an IT-based system that automatically distributes claims among VA regional offices with the intention of expediting claims decisions by assigning claims processing based on a regional office’s capacity, instead of assigning the claim to the regional office in the state where the veteran lives. 

Although the NWQ was scheduled to be rolled out in November 2015, test runs discovered problems with the program, and VA did not fully implement NWQ until May 8, 2016.

The hearing will focus on evaluating NWQ’s potential to improve accuracy and speed in claims processing, as well as whether or not NWQ will be used to process non-rating claims and appeals.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-examine-va-claims-processing-system

Committee to Host Round Table on Veterans’ Educational Success

Committee to Host Round Table on Veterans’ Educational Success
Today, the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity announced it will hold a roundtable discussion regarding the results of the National Veteran Education Success Tracker (NVEST). The roundtable will be held on Tuesday, February 7, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. in room 340.

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill has provided a wealth of educational opportunities for veterans, but prior to the NVEST project, there had been no real attempt at accurately examining and analyzing the outcomes of student veterans. The NVEST project, a collaborative research effort between the Department of Veterans Affairs, Student Veterans of America and the National Student Clearinghouse, has compiled data on the success of student veterans by tracking every student veteran who used the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill from its inception in 2009 until September 2015.

This data will enable the public to better understand the types of schools student veterans are attending, the degrees they are pursuing, their graduation and completion rates and the amount of time spent pursuing their degrees while using Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits.

Roundtable participants include members of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, representatives from VA, Student Veterans of America, the National Student Clearinghouse, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and the National Association of State Approving Agencies.

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity  

WHAT: Roundtable Discussion to Examine the Results of NVEST

WHEN: 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, February 7, 2017

WHERE: 340 Cannon House Office Building
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/committee-host-round-table-veterans-educational-success

HVAC Schedule February 6 – 10

HVAC Schedule February 6 – 10
Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) today released the hearing schedule for February 6 – 10.

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

WHAT: “Assessing the VA IT Landscape: Progress and Challenges”

WHEN: 10:00 a.m., Tuesday,  February 7, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-schedule-february-6-10

HVAC to Examine IT Modernization at VA

HVAC to Examine IT Modernization at VA
On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe, M.D., will hold a hearing entitled, “Assessing the VA IT Landscape: Progress and Challenges.” This hearing will examine the major Information Technology (IT) modernization projects and programs underway at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

 

The following event is open to the press:

WHO: House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

WHAT: “Assessing the VA IT Landscape: Progress and Challenges”

WHEN: 10:00 a.m., Tuesday,  February 7, 2017

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building and streaming at veterans.house.gov

 

WITNESS LIST

Mr. Rob C. Thomas, II

Acting Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology and Chief Information Officer

Office of Information and Technology

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

 

Accompanied by:

Dr. Jennifer Lee

Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Policy and Services

Veterans Health Administration

 

Mr. Brad Houston,

Director, Office of Business Integration

Veterans Benefits Administration

 

Mr. David A. Powner

Director, IT Management Issues 

U.S. Government Accountability Office

 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/hvac-examine-it-modernization-va

Committee to Hold Organizational Meeting

Committee to Hold Organizational Meeting
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will meet on Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. for their formal organizational meeting of the 115th Congress. The business meeting will be held in 334 Cannon House Office Building.

The following event is open to the press:

WHAT: Organizational Meeting for the 115th Congress   

WHEN: Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building

For more information or to stream the meeting, visit Veterans.House.Gov. The current committee roster can be found here. 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/media-advisories/committee-hold-organizational-meeting

Chairmen Roe and Isakson Send Letter to President Trump Regarding Federal Hiring Freeze

Chairmen Roe and Isakson Send Letter to President Trump Regarding Federal Hiring Freeze
Today, House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairmen Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting the Trump administration provide the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with additional guidance related to the federal hiring freeze announced on January 23, 2017.

A copy of the signed letter can be found here, and the text is pasted below:

The President 
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the over six million veterans nationwide who rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system, we are writing to respectfully request that you provide guidance indicating that exempting VA direct patient care providers is consistent with the tenants of and latitude permitted in your January 23rd Executive Order pertaining to a Federal civilian employee hiring freeze.  

One of our government’s highest priorities – and VA’s single most important mission – is to provide timely, high-quality care to the men and women who have bravely served our nation in uniform. A robust clinical workforce is vital to achieving that goal. As VA direct care providers play a critical public health role, we believe that this action is in line with your intent to exempt positions necessary to meet public safety from the effects of this hiring freeze. 

Also, as you have rightfully recognized many times before, the VA healthcare system is currently in a state of crisis. We must ensure that, while we work toward our mutual goal of VA healthcare reform, VA is not further hampered by an inability to recruit high-quality clinicians to meet the immediate health care needs of our veterans. 

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to hearing from you soon and to working closely with you and your Administration to honor and serve our veterans and their families. 

Sincerely,

DAVID P. ROE                                                          JOHNNY ISAKSON
Chairman                                                                     Chairman

Committee on Veterans’ Affairs                                  Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. House of Representatives                                    U.S. Senate

cc:  Robert Snyder, Acting Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairmen-roe-and-isakson-send-letter-president-trump-regarding-federal-hiring

“Assessing the VA IT Landscape: Progress and Challenges”

“Assessing the VA IT Landscape: Progress and Challenges”

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/assessing-va-it-landscape-progress-and-challenges

Formal Organization of the 115th Congress

Formal Organization of the 115th Congress

https://veterans.house.gov/legislation/business-meetings/formal-organization-115th-congress

Roe Announces Committee Leadership

Roe Announces Committee Leadership
Today, Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) announced the leadership for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for the 115th Congress.

Roe released the following statement:

“These incoming subcommittee chairmen have impressive backgrounds in public service, and many of them have served in the military. They’ve each been tireless advocates for veterans, and I’m confident they will keep fighting to improve the lives of our nation’s heroes as chairmen of their respective subcommittees. I am also glad Rep. Bilirakis will continue serving as vice chairman. I look forward to working with Rep. Bilirakis and the subcommittee chairmen to pass meaningful legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs and continue the committee’s diligent oversight.”

115th Congress Leadership:

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL): Vice Chairman

Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL): Chairman, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX): Chairman, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH): Chairman, Subcommittee on Health

Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI): Chairman, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/roe-announces-committee-leadership

Chairman Roe Statement on VA Secretary Nomination

Chairman Roe Statement on VA Secretary Nomination
Today, Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after President-elect Trump nominated Dr. David J. Shulkin to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

“I am pleased President-elect Trump has chosen a physician to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, especially one familiar with the integrating of private practitioners into the VA’s network of health care providers. I’ve long said I would be happy to work with anyone committed to ensuring our heroes have access to the services they have earned, especially quality health care, and I look forward to working with Dr. Shulkin to bring wholesale reform to the Department.”

Dr. Shulkin currently serves as the Under Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He has served in that post since 2015. 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-roe-statement-va-secretary-nomination

Chairman Roe Announces Committee Members

Chairman Roe Announces Committee Members
Today, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after seven new Republican members were chosen to serve on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs:  

“I’m excited to welcome this group of lawmakers to the committee. From military service to health care expertise, these members will bring their own valuable experiences to the committee, and will keep us moving in the right direction to build a better VA. I’m especially proud that more than half of the committee’s Republican members are veterans themselves. I look forward to working with them as we continue our efforts to increase veterans’ access to quality health care, honor our nation’s heroes and ensure veterans and their families can utilize the services they have earned.”

Republican Members for the 115th Congress

Doug Lamborn (R-CO)

Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL)

Mike Coffman (R-CO)

Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)

Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa)

Mike Bost (R-IL)

Jodey Arrington (R-TX)

Jim Banks (R-IN)

Jack Bergman (R-MI)

Neal Dunn (R-FL)

Clay Higgins (R-LA)

John Rutherford (R-FL)

This list is not in order of seniority 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-roe-announces-committee-members

Roe Statement on Election of Walz as Ranking Member

Roe Statement on Election of Walz as Ranking Member
Today, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after Rep. Tim Walz was elected Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs:

“I’m thrilled to hear that my good friend and fellow veteran Rep. Tim Walz has been elected Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Rep. Walz has been a tireless advocate for veterans, and I know he will continue that fight as Ranking Member. I look forward to working alongside Rep. Walz as we strive on both sides of the aisle to improve the lives of our nation’s heroes. I’d also like to thank Rep. Mark Takano for his leadership on the committee.”

Walz retired from the Army National Guard as Command Sergeant Major. Walz is the highest ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/roe-statement-election-walz-ranking-member

Roe Statement on House Passage of Bills to Bring Accountability to the VA

Roe Statement on House Passage of Bills to Bring Accountability to the VA
Today, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after two bills – the Biological Implant Tracking and Veterans Safety Act and the Ensuring VA Employee Accountability Act – to bring accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) passed the House with broad, bipartisan support:

“The very first bills passed by the House in the 115th Congress are bipartisan bills to bring much-needed accountability to the VA, and that is not a coincidence. These important pieces of legislation are just two of many steps House Republicans are taking to reform the VA.

“These commonsense reforms will help ensure veterans receive the quality health care they deserve while also holding VA employees who fail in their duty to care for veterans accountable. As I’ve said time and time again, I know the vast majority of VA employees get up and go to work every day with the sole intention of serving our veterans. It’s unfair to these hardworking men and women that the Department continually refuses to hold bad actors accountable. As Chairman, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate, as well as President-elect Trump and the Trump administration, to fundamentally change the way the VA does business.”

 

Background:

The Biological Implant Tracking and Veterans Safety Act directs the VA secretary to adopt the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) unique device identification system (UDI) for labeling of all biological implants and to implement an automated inventory system to ensure veterans do not receive expired or otherwise contaminated tissue. In January 2014, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the VA does not use a standardized process for tracking biological tissue from cadaver donor to living veteran recipient. In the event of a recall, it would often be impossible to track down which patient received contaminated tissue. The same GAO report detailed the Veterans Health Administration’s failure to consistently ensure they are purchasing tissue from biological implant vendors that have registered with the FDA.

The Ensuring VA Employee Accountability Act, introduced by Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), would require all reprimands and admonishments given to VA employees to remain in their file as long as they are employed by the Department. Under current policy, an admonishment and reprimand can only stay on an employee’s record for two and three years, respectively.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/roe-statement-house-passage-bills-bring-accountability-va

Miller: Bonus Obsession Clouding VA Leaders’ Judgment

Miller: Bonus Obsession Clouding VA Leaders’ Judgment
After VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson asked House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller to repeal cuts to VA employee bonuses used to fund opioid-addiction treatment programs for veterans included in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, Miller rebutted Gibson in a letter and released the below statement.

“Clearly, the judgment of VA leaders is clouded by their continual obsession with cash bonuses, awards and incentives for employees even in the face of the ongoing scandals plaguing the agency. Imagine how much better off the department and our veterans would be if VA leaders spent more time focused on fixing the agency’s many problems rather than appeasing bureaucrats and union bosses.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

 

Related

Deputy Sec. Gibson Letter to Chairman Miller

Dec. 19, 2016

 

Chairman Miller Letter to Deputy Sec. Gibson

Dec. 20, 2016
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-bonus-obsession-clouding-va-leaders-judgment

Miller Statement on House Passage of Veterans Bills

Miller Statement on House Passage of Veterans Bills
Today the House passed two veterans-related bills:

H.R. 5099, as amended, the Communities Helping Invest through Property and Improvements Needed for Veterans Act of 2016, also referred to as the CHIP IN for Vets Act of 2016, would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to allow non-federal entities – including state or city governments, nonprofit organizations and benefactors – to donate up to five facilities to VA.

H.R. 6435 would allow directors of VA’s regional networks to enter into a contract with an appropriate non-VA entity with expertise in health care evaluation to investigate any VA medical center within that director’s jurisdiction.

These bills now await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“The support and involvement of outside stakeholders is absolutely crucial to VA’s success, and these bills would help facilitate more of that. H.R. 6435 allows vital third party oversight of VA facilities, and the CHIP IN for Vets Act would broaden the pool of resources available to VA for its infrastructure needs. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in passing these bills and urge the Senate to consider them without delay.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-statement-house-passage-veterans-bills-0

Miller Applauds House Passage of Veterans Bills

Miller Applauds House Passage of Veterans Bills
Today the House passed six veterans-related bills, including:

H.R. 6416, the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016, would make a number of improvements to VA health care, the disability compensation process and other veterans services. The bill would clarify VA’s responsibility to provide treatment to individuals seeking emergency care, expand the amount of time that certain widows and widowers may receive and utilize Post 9/11 G.I. Bill educational assistance benefits under the Fry Scholarship and require the secretary to notify Congress if an employee is placed on administrative leave for more than 14 days in a single year. It would also expand eligibility for medallions to mark the graves of our nation’s veterans and Medal of Honor recipients who are buried in private cemeteries.

H.R. 5399, the Ethical Patient Care for Veterans Act of 2016 would require VA doctors to promptly report unethical activities of other physicians to the applicable state licensing authority, in accordance with the American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics.

H.R. 4352, as amended, the Faster Care for Veterans Act of 2016, would direct VA to carry out an 18-month pilot program of commercial patient self-scheduling software and establish capabilities standards for such a system.

S. 3076, the Charles Duncan Buried with Honor Act of 2016, would authorize VA to furnish a casket or urn for a deceased veteran laid to rest in a national, state or tribal cemetery if their family cannot afford it.

 

S. 3076 now awaits the president’s signature, while the other bills await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“These bipartisan bills are designed to help improve health care, benefits and services for those who are most deserving – our nation’s veterans. I’m especially proud of the provision in H.R. 6416 that brings transparency and accountability to VA’s often-abused administrative leave system. I applaud my colleagues for passing this meaningful legislation to improve care for our nation’s veterans and honor those who have fallen.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-applauds-house-passage-veterans-bills-0

Miller Statement on 115th Congress HVAC Chairman

Miller Statement on 115th Congress HVAC Chairman
Today Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement after Rep. Phil Roe was elected by the Republican Steering Committee to serve as House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs chairman for the 115th Congress.

“I would like to congratulate Rep. Roe on his hard-earned victory as well as the steering committee for its excellent decision. Under Roe’s leadership, I am confident the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will continue to serve veterans by setting the standard for congressional legislative and oversight accomplishments.”   – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-statement-115th-congress-hvac-chairman

Miller Statement on Latest VA Scandals

Miller Statement on Latest VA Scandals
After new scandals surfaced at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center as well as the Tomah, Wis., VA Medical Center, Chairman Jeff Miller released the below statement: 

“More than two years after the biggest scandal in VA history, the department’s problems remain on full display. In Washington, more than 2,000 veterans who asked VA for help fell through the cracks, including three who died before being contacted by VA. And in Tomah, Wis., nearly 600 veterans may have been infected with Hepatitis or HIV due to shoddy sterilization procedures. Under VA’s broken civil-service system, not a single employee has been seriously held accountable for these egregious instances of botched care, according to VA records. And until VA leaders get behind commonsense accountability legislation – such as the House-passed VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act – VA’s problems will only continue.”  – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

 

Related

Administrative Summary of Investigation, VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

VA Office of Inspector General

Nov. 29, 2016

 

Tomah VA: Veterans could have been infected with Hepatitis, HIV

NBC, Eau Claire, Wis.

Nov. 29, 2016

 

In Bipartisan Vote, House Passes VA Accountability, Appeals Reform

Veterans.House.Gov

Sept. 14, 2016
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-statement-latest-va-scandals

Miller Statement on House Passage of Legislation to Protect Student Veterans

Miller Statement on House Passage of Legislation to Protect Student Veterans
Today the House passed H.R. 5047, the Protecting Veterans' Educational Choice Act of 2016, by a vote of 411-3.

The bill would require VA to inform student veterans about transferring coursework credits when they switch schools and about agreements schools may have regarding transferring credits.

H.R. 5047 now awaits consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bill, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“Our veterans and their dependents deserve full transparency as they set out to use their hard-earned education benefits. This bill will help provide that transparency. I applaud my House colleagues for working together to pass this important bipartisan legislation.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-statement-house-passage-legislation-protect-student-veterans

Miller Commends House Passage of Veterans Bills

Miller Commends House Passage of Veterans Bills
Today the House passed six veterans-related bills, including:

H.R. 3286, the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2016, would require the Department of Labor to better recognize employers’ efforts to recruit and retain veteran employees and provide community and charitable services to the veteran community.

H.R. 5600, as amended, the No Hero Left Untreated Act, would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to carry out a one-year pilot program to treat veterans with PTSD, TBI, chronic pain, and opioid addiction or who have experienced military sexual trauma with magnetic EEG/EKG-guided resonance therapy, which uses magnetic stimulation to help restore proper functioning in the brain.

H.R. 4757, as amended, would require VA to supply a headstone, marker or medallion for Medal of Honor recipients buried at private cemeteries. The bill would also allow VA to send a Presidential Memorial Certificate, which is a certificate that expresses the nation’s recognition and gratitude of military service, to the families of deceased veterans and to the families of deceased members of certain Reserve components of the Armed Forces.

H.R. 5166, as amended, the WINGMAN Act, would allow veterans to authorize qualified congressional staffers to access their benefits claims information, including medical and pay records.

H.R. 6323, to name the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system in Long Beach, California, the "Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center."

H.R. 3471, the Veterans Mobility Safety Act, as amended, would direct VA to develop a comprehensive policy regarding quality standards for providers who dispense modification services to veterans under the Automobile Adaptive Equipment Program. The bill would also authorize VA to hire and prescribe qualifications for hiring hearing aid specialists.

 

H.R. 3471 now awaits the president’s signature, while the other bills await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

 

“I am proud to stand with my colleagues in passing these important bills, which will help us improve and expand services for veterans while injecting much-needed common sense into the Department of Veterans Affairs.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-commends-house-passage-veterans-bills-0

Chairman Miller Statement Honoring Veterans Day

Chairman Miller Statement Honoring Veterans Day
Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement today in honor of Veterans Day 2016:

“Our veterans are the very best of America. The freedoms and safety we all enjoy would not be possible without their service and sacrifice. For generations those who have worn the uniform have put our country first, which is why we must put them first – today and throughout the year. Let us perpetually strive to honor their enormous contributions to our nation, while keeping the promises our nation has made to them. It has been a true honor to serve America’s heroes throughout my tenure as chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Their resilience, courage and character never cease to inspire. Working on behalf of such a special group of men and women is a privilege that has shaped my life and will continue to do so in the future.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-miller-statement-honoring-veterans-day-0

Miller Statement on Continued Delays and Death at Phoenix VA

Miller Statement on Continued Delays and Death at Phoenix VA
Today, Chairman Miller released the below statement regarding a newly released Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General report revealing that veterans are still dying while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA Health Care System and that delays may have contributed to the death of at least one Phoenix-area veteran. Read the report here.

“More than two years after the Phoenix VA Health Care System became ground zero for VA’s wait-time scandal, many of its original problems remain, and this report is proof of that sad fact. Although the report’s extensive use of confusing bureaucratic parlance makes digesting the IG’s findings a tedious chore, it’s clear veterans are still dying while waiting for care, that delays may have contributed to the recent death of at least one veteran and the work environment in Phoenix is marred by confusion and dysfunction. VA’s performance in Phoenix and across the nation will never improve until there are consequences up and down the chain of command for these and other persistent failures. Unfortunately, given that this report is largely devoid of clear lines of accountability to those responsible for Phoenix VAHCS’s current problems, it is unlikely these issues will be solved anytime soon.”  – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-statement-continued-delays-and-death-phoenix-va

Chairman Miller Demands VA Secretary McDonald Comply with Subpoena

Chairman Miller Demands VA Secretary McDonald Comply with Subpoena
On Friday, Chairman Miller wrote Department of Veterans Affairs Sec. Bob McDonald regarding the department’s failure to comply with the committee’s Sept. 7 subpoena for information on VA art expenditures and the replacement Denver VA medical center, the biggest construction failure in VA history. Read the letter here.

VA’s Sept. 28 subpoena response failed to meet the terms set out by the committee, with the department turning over just 18 of 71 items related to the Denver project while providing incomplete and misleading information on art expenditures.

Additionally, Chairman Miller released the below statement today regarding VA’s failure to comply with the subpoena.

“As a taxpayer-funded organization, VA has a responsibility to explain its actions to Congress and the public. Right now, it is failing in that responsibility. We simply will not tolerate VA’s attempts to keep information related to its wasteful art expenditures and the biggest construction failure in VA history shrouded in secrecy. Sec. McDonald must immediately comply with the terms of this subpoena.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

 

Related

Chairman Miller Letter to Secretary McDonald Re: Subpoena

VA offers partial response to Congress, leaves big questions unanswered
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-miller-demands-va-secretary-mcdonald-comply-subpoena

Miller Applauds House Passage of Veterans Bills That Force VA to Use Common Sense

Miller Applauds House Passage of Veterans Bills That Force VA to Use Common Sense
Today the House passed three veterans-related bills, including:

H.R. 5392, the No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act, was developed in response to inspector general and media reports that VA crisis line calls were going to voice mail because of mismanagement and lazy employees. It would require VA to develop a plan to ensure that each telephone call and text message is answered in a timely manner by an appropriately qualified live person.

H.R. 3216, the VET Act, was developed after VA refused to help a veteran suffering from a broken foot into a VA emergency room. Instead, VA hospital officials told the veteran to call 911. The bill would clarify and strengthen the VA’s obligation to provide appropriate emergency care for veterans and prohibit VA from transferring a medically unstable veteran unless the veteran makes a written request to be transferred or it is clinically necessary.

H.R. 5162, the Vet Connect Act of 2016, as amended, would require VA to share medical record information with community providers in order to provide care or treatment to a shared patient.

 

These bills now await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that VA is so broken Congress has to pass legislation just to get the department to perform common sense tasks like answering the phone and providing emergency medical treatment to veterans who need it. Nevertheless, we will keep working until the department is reformed into an organization truly worthy of the veterans it is charged with serving. These bills would help ensure all veterans have access to the help they need in times of crisis, and I’m proud to stand with my House colleagues in support of them. Now it’s time for the Senate to act on this legislation as well as the more than 30 other House-passed veterans bills the Senate has yet to consider.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

 

Related

Calls to VA suicide hotline went to voicemail, report says

VA suicide hotline workers ripped for failing vets

Seattle VA hospital strands veteran outside ER
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-applauds-house-passage-veterans-bills-force-va-use-common-sense

Chairman Miller, Acting Ranking Member Takano, HVAC Members Ask DOJ to Investigate VA Officials for Perjury

Chairman Miller, Acting Ranking Member Takano, HVAC Members Ask DOJ to Investigate VA Officials for Perjury
Today, Chairman Miller, Acting Ranking Member Takano and members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, asking the Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into whether former VA construction chief Glenn Haggstrom and other VA officials may have committed perjury in their statements to Congress regarding cost overruns at the replacement Denver VA medical center.

Additionally, Chairman Miller and Acting Ranking Member Takano made the below statements.

“It is an absolute fact that numerous VA officials repeatedly misled Congress regarding cost overruns related to the replacement Denver VA medical center – the biggest construction failure in VA history. Now it’s up to the Department of Justice to do its job and ensure that justice is served. That’s why we’re calling on Attorney General Lynch to examine the overwhelming amount of damning evidence in this case and determine whether perjury charges are warranted.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

“The OIG’s report makes two things clear. First, the significant delays and cost overruns at the Greater Colorado VA construction project were entirely avoidable and resulted from leadership failures at the highest levels of the VA. Second, Glenn Haggstrom and other senior VA officials involved in the project likely misrepresented or withheld information in testimony provided to the Committee. 

“Honest and forthright testimony is critical for this Committee to understand and address the challenges facing the VA and veterans. Any witness who deliberately misleads Congress must be held accountable and I hope the Department of Justice conducts a thorough investigation into the statements made by VA officials responsible for the failed Colorado project. If they indeed lied in their testimony they not only broke the law, they betrayed the trust of America's veterans.” – Rep. Mark Takano, Acting Ranking Member, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

 

Related

Chairman Miller, Acting Ranking Member Takano Letter to AG Lynch

VA Construction Exec Who Earned Bonuses Despite $2 Billion in Cost Overruns ‘Steps Down.’ But Can Still Get His Pension.

The Unfinished VA Hospital That's More Than $1 Billion Over Budget
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-miller-acting-ranking-member-takano-hvac-members-ask-doj-investigate-va

Chairman Miller Statement on Biggest Construction Failure in VA History

Chairman Miller Statement on Biggest Construction Failure in VA History
Today, Chairman Miller released the below statement regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General report on the replacement Denver VA medical center, the biggest construction failure in VA History.

“To this day, the department’s handling of the replacement Denver VA medical center continues to be a case study in government waste, incompetence and secrecy. This report makes two things abundantly clear: there are many more people responsible for the biggest construction failure in VA history than the department has led the public to believe, and it is possible that former VA construction chief Glenn Haggstrom or other employees committed perjury in hiding information regarding the project’s cost overruns during congressional testimony. Consequently, I will be asking the Department of Justice to determine whether charges are warranted against Haggstrom or others, and I am renewing my call for VA to immediately fire Office of Construction and Facilities Management Executive Director Stella Fiotes, who has presided over much of the Denver project’s mismanagement yet remains firmly entrenched at the department. It’s well past time for the department to fire all of those responsible for botching this project or explain to America’s veterans and American taxpayers why these individuals have earned the right to continued VA employment.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

 

Related

Chairman Miller Calls For Immediate Firings After Biggest Construction Failure In VA History

VA Construction Exec Who Earned Bonuses Despite $2 Billion in Cost Overruns ‘Steps Down.’ But Can Still Get His Pension.

The Unfinished VA Hospital That's More Than $1 Billion Over Budget

House Panel Subpoenas VA over Denver Hospital, Artwork
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-miller-statement-biggest-construction-failure-va-history

In Bipartisan Vote, House Passes VA Accountability, Appeals Reform

In Bipartisan Vote, House Passes VA Accountability, Appeals Reform
Today the House passed H.R. 5620, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016, by a bipartisan vote of 310-116 that included the support of 69 Democrats.

The bill would:

Shorten the firing/demotion/appeals process for rank-and-file VA employees from more than a year on average to no more than 77 days
Remove entirely the Merit Systems Protection Board from the firing/demotion/appeals process for VA senior executives
Provide VA whistleblowers with a means to solve problems at the lowest level possible, while offering them protection from reprisals and mandating strict accountability for those who reprise against them
Give the VA secretary the authority to recoup bonuses and relocation expenses from misbehaving employees
Give the VA secretary the authority to reduce the pensions of senior executives convicted of felonies that influenced their job performance
Reform the department’s broken disability benefits appeals process

The bill now awaits consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of H.R. 5620, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs will never be truly worthy of the veterans it serves until it addresses its pervasive lack of accountability among employees at all levels. The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act gets rid of the loopholes that have been unfairly forcing veterans and the many good VA workers to deal with deadwood employees for years. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in the House in passing this important legislation. Additionally, I would like to thank Sen. Marco Rubio for leading the fight in the Senate to fix VA’s accountability problems and sponsoring the Senate companion bill to H.R. 5620, which the Senate should take up and pass in short order.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/bipartisan-vote-house-passes-va-accountability-appeals-reform

Markup of Pending Legislation

Markup of Pending Legislation

https://veterans.house.gov/legislation/markups/pending-legislation-3

Miller Commends House Passage of Veterans Bills

Miller Commends House Passage of Veterans Bills
Today the House passed three veterans-related bills.

 

H.R. 3471, the Veterans Mobility Safety Act, as amended, would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop a comprehensive policy regarding quality standards for providers who dispense modification services to veterans under the Automobile Adaptive Equipment Program. The bill would also authorize VA to hire and prescribe qualifications for hiring hearing aid specialists.

H.R. 5936, the West Los Angeles Leasing Act of 2016, as amended, would authorize VA to carry out certain leases on VA’s Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System West LA Medical Center campus in Los Angeles, Calif., and prohibit VA from entering into any land-sharing agreements unless the agreements provide additional health care resources and benefit veterans and their families in ways other than generating additional revenue. In addition, it would require VA to submit an annual report regarding leases and land-sharing agreements on the West LA VAMC campus and mandate that VA’s inspector general produce reports regarding the leases and implementation of VA’s master plan for the campus.

H.R. 5937, as amended, would authorize the American Battle Monuments Commission to acquire, operate and maintain the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial located outside Paris, France.

 

These bills now await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“The legislation the House passed today will help bring much-needed accountability and efficiency to VA’s long-troubled West Los Angeles campus, enhance VA’s hearing health services and honor the service and sacrifice of a special group of World War I veterans. I applaud my colleagues in the House for their actions and call on the Senate to consider these bills in short order.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

 
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-commends-house-passage-veterans-bills

“An Assessment of Deficiencies at the Northport VA Medical Center”

“An Assessment of Deficiencies at the Northport VA Medical Center”

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/assessment-deficiencies-northport-va-medical-center

“Veterans Affairs Contracting: Improvements in Policies and Processes Could Yield Cost Savings and Efficiency”

“Veterans Affairs Contracting: Improvements in Policies and Processes Could Yield Cost Savings and Efficiency”

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/veterans-affairs-contracting-improvements-policies-and-processes-could-yield-cost-savings

Union Bosses, VA Bosses Rigging System for Failure

Union Bosses, VA Bosses Rigging System for Failure
Union Bosses, VA Bosses Rigging System for Failure

By Rep. Jeff Miller

Military.com

In an expletive-laden rant delivered earlier this year, a belligerent American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox threatened Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald with physical violence.

Cox was "prepared to whoop Bob McDonald's a–," he said. "He's going to start treating us as the labor partner … or we will whoop his a–, I promise you," Cox continued.

McDonald's response? Absolutely nothing.

The exchange perfectly encapsulates the corrosive influence government union bosses are having on efforts to reform a broken VA. It's a never-ending cycle in which pliant politicians and federal agency leaders bow to the bosses' demands to preserve the dysfunctional status quo of our federal personnel system, which almost guarantees employment for government bureaucrats no matter how egregious their behavior.

The problem with union bosses like Cox is that they are more interested in protecting misbehaving VA employees than the veterans the department was created to serve.

The problem with VA leaders like McDonald is that, in their perpetual quest to placate big labor's powers that be, the taxpayers and veterans they are charged with serving are paying the price.

It's no wonder McDonald was silent after Cox's violent threats. Cox's bellicose behavior is precisely the type of employee conduct VA leaders and union bosses routinely defend.

Take the case of a VA Caribbean Healthcare System employee who AFGE helped to keep her job after she participated in an armed robbery. Unwilling to admit the crucial role AFGE union bosses played in helping the criminal keep her job, VA has offered a series of outrageous excuses in order to explain her continued employment. "There was never any indication that the employee posed a risk to Veterans or VA property," VA Under Secretary for Health David Shulkin said, adding that the employee couldn't be terminated for her armed robbery participation because it occurred in her free time. Really?

The fact that AFGE routinely defends the indefensible among VA employees is not surprising. After all, the organization's first loyalty is to government workers above everyone else. What's disappointing, however, is VA leaders' refusal to challenge AFGE and its tactics. VA's silence is more proof that the bosses — both VA and union — are all part of the same system, which specializes in protecting its own.

Consider how VA safeguarded two senior bureaucrats when the department's inspector general caught them orchestrating a scheme to rake in thousands in taxpayer-funded relocation benefits.

According to the IG, VA regional office directors Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves inappropriately used their authority, enabling them to benefit from a total of more than $400,000 in taxpayer-funded relocation payments. Rubens, alone, received more than $274,000 in benefits to make the roughly three-hour move from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia. That's almost $100,000 per hour of driving.

When alerted to Rubens' and Graves' conduct, VA's inspector general made criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, while VA leaders went out of their way to allow them to keep their jobs, as well as the benefits they collected as part of the scheme. VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson even expressed confidence in the pair's leadership abilities and said keeping them on the payroll as regional office directors was "the morally right thing to do."

For VA and union bosses, however, it's about more than just protecting their own. They are also actively fighting to protect VA's broken status quo.

Case in point is the Veterans First Act, a Senate bill that was ostensibly designed to address the department's number one problem: its widespread and pervasive lack of accountability for misbehaving employees.

AFGE union bosses got their hands on an early draft of the legislation and demanded that senators water down the bill in four key areas. After senators made all of the changes the union bosses had dictated, AFGE endorsed the bill.

Once the union bosses gave the revised Veterans First Act their stamp of approval, McDonald began rallying support for the legislation.

McDonald's sudden support for the Veterans First Act marked a remarkable change of heart for him on the subject of VA accountability. Previously, McDonald's VA had opposed almost every bill that would have attempted to meaningfully help VA solve its accountability problems. Perhaps McDonald only supports accountability reforms that union bosses have had the chance to render toothless.

And so it goes at VA, where union and VA bosses fight to maintain a system in which corrupt and incompetent employees have more rights than the veterans they are charged with serving.

Meanwhile veterans and taxpayers are paying the price.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/editorials/union-bosses-va-bosses-rigging-system-failure

“Investigating How VA Improperly Paid Millions to Incarcerated Veterans”

“Investigating How VA Improperly Paid Millions to Incarcerated Veterans”

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/investigating-how-va-improperly-paid-millions-incarcerated-veterans

“Possible motions to subpoena information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs”

“Possible motions to subpoena information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs”

https://veterans.house.gov/legislation/business-meetings/possible-motions-subpoena-information-us-department-veterans-affairs-0

“Possible motions to subpoena information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs”

“Possible motions to subpoena information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs”

https://veterans.house.gov/legislation/business-meetings/possible-motions-subpoena-information-us-department-veterans-affairs

No Excuse for VA’s Litany of Excuses

No Excuse for VA’s Litany of Excuses
No Excuse for VA’s Litany of Excuses

By Rep. Jeff Miller

InsideSources

August 21, 2016

Apparently, Department of Veterans Affairs officials haven’t learned much from the wait-time scandal that shook VA to its foundations and forced the resignation of former Secretary Eric Shinseki.

At its core, VA’s nationwide delays-in-care debacle, in which VA employees manipulated veterans’ medical appointment data in order to hide long waits for care, was about bureaucrats who chose to cover up problems rather than own up to them.

Unfortunately, it seems the same sort of attitude that created the VA scandal is still alive and well within the department. That’s because — in a bizarre attempt to defend the department’s lack of accountability — VA leaders have adopted the puzzling strategy of downplaying and making excuses for instances of employee misconduct that every objective observer knows are abhorrent.

Case in point is a recent interview with USA Today in which VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson lamented media reports of VA’s wait-time scandal, which according to VA’s inspector general involved employees at 40 VA medical facilities around the country who manipulated veterans’ wait times in order to make long waits appear shorter.

Gibson suggested that some of the media coverage of VA’s wait-time issues was “crap” that created the false impression that veterans seeking VA care would encounter “some lazy, corrupt bureaucrat who doesn’t care a whit.” The comments are a remarkable rhetorical about-face for Gibson, because they’re in contrast to the Obama administration’s official position on the VA scandal.

In fact, in 2014, then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors and Gibson, himself, briefed President Obama that VA’s Veterans Health Administration’s “corrosive culture has led to personnel problems across the department that are seriously impacting … the timeliness of health care.” VHA’s problems “are exacerbated by poor management and communication structures, distrust between some VA employees and management, a history of retaliation toward employees raising issues, and a lack of accountability across all grade levels,” the briefing continued.

While there is no doubt that VA is home to many employees who are hard-working and dedicated to serving veterans, it’s also a place where — because of dysfunctional federal civil service rules that VA opposes changing for most employees — corrupt behavior such as wait-time manipulation is routinely tolerated. The fact that VA’s top leaders are now failing to acknowledge this only undermines their credibility as they seek to regain the trust of the veterans they are charged with serving.

Consider the facts.

In the Phoenix area alone, 293 veterans died waiting for VA care, according to VA’s inspector general. Separately, VA has linked the deaths of an additional 23 veterans across the country to delayed treatment. Those are facts — not crap — that may have had life-and-death implications for veterans who deserved much better. Yet incredibly, the department has successfully fired fewer than 10 people for wait-time-related issues.

Let that sink in. VA bureaucrats at 40 locations were manipulating data to hide long waits for care, 316 veterans died and yet VA has only successfully fired fewer than 10 people for these issues.

It’s obvious that until those who caused the VA scandal are removed from the department’s payroll, efforts to reform the department will never succeed. Unfortunately, under this administration, that’s unlikely to happen. That’s because instead of properly holding problem employees accountable, VA is all-too-often content to simply make excuses — often excruciatingly bad ones — for their misbehavior.

VA’s handling of wait-time manipulation problems in Central Texas underscores this point. There, the department’s inspector general found systemic data manipulation at VA facilities throughout Austin, San Antonio and Kerrville. More than 20 employees admitted to cooking the books, with some saying they feared being fired for refusing to manipulate data. Despite the report’s damning findings, VA has not disciplined a single employee for this behavior.

So what’s VA’s excuse after its Central Texas employees were caught red-handed falsifying government data? “We cannot explain the actions of the schedulers.” Of course they can’t. It’s hard to defend the indefensible.

VA’s excuse making goes beyond wait-time manipulation issues and applies to criminal acts as well. Take the case of the VA Caribbean Healthcare System in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which the average person could easily mistake for a federal jobs program for ex-cons rather than a VA medical facility.

At the San Juan hospital, a VA employee remains on the payroll despite her participation in an armed robbery, because according to VA, employees can be involved in stickups as long as they do so in their free time. At the same location, VA touts the “significant contributions” as a “subject matter expert” of a convicted sex offender who works as a human resource specialist. The facility has also put a felon who was sentenced to prison as part of a credit card scheme in charge of one of the hospital’s purchasing programs.

And people wonder why VA isn’t fixed yet.

Enough is enough. It’s time for VA leaders to level with veterans and the American people. The VA scandal was not overblown, it was real. Yes, it really is too hard to fire federal employees of all pay grades, and this sad fact is causing problems for veterans as well as thousands of VA employees who are actually dedicated to doing their jobs.

Veterans are depending on VA for solutions to the department’s most pressing problems. There is simply no excuse for VA’s litany of excuses regarding employees who can’t or won’t do their jobs.
https://veterans.house.gov/news/editorials/no-excuse-va-s-litany-excuses

Miller Statement on President Obama’s Speech to DAV

Miller Statement on President Obama’s Speech to DAV
Today, Chairman Jeff Miller released the below statement regarding President Obama’s speech at the Disabled American Veterans national convention.

“During his speech today, President Obama threw around a lot of impressive sounding talking points. But like a lot of the information coming out of his Department of Veterans Affairs nowadays, the rhetoric doesn’t match reality. The president decried wait-time manipulation, even though VA leaders routinely tolerate such practices and, according to the Government Accountability Office, VA wait-time data is still misleading. He spoke of the need to protect whistleblowers, even though retaliation against VA employees who spotlight problems is still a major problem. And he tried to link VA’s poor performance with a lack of funding, even though VA’s budget has nearly quadrupled since 2001. The fact is, VA will never be fixed until we have a president who is dedicated to solving the department’s number one problem – its widespread and pervasive lack of accountability. Until then, VA’s issues will continue while veterans pay the price.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

 

Related

VA hasn't fixed wait-time problems, GAO finds

USA Today

April 18, 2016

 

Albuquerque VA manager in wait times scandal was promoted

Albuquerque Journal

July 8, 2016

 

OSC whistleblower cases hit record highs in 2015

Federal News Radio

July 12, 2016

 

Lawmakers eye ever-growing VA budget

Military Times

February 10, 2016
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-statement-president-obama-s-speech-dav

“Technology and Treatment: Telemedicine in the VA Healthcare System”

“Technology and Treatment: Telemedicine in the VA Healthcare System”

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/technology-and-treatment-telemedicine-va-healthcare-system

“Examining 21st Century Programs and Strategies for Veteran Job Seekers”

“Examining 21st Century Programs and Strategies for Veteran Job Seekers”

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/examining-21st-century-programs-and-strategies-veteran-job-seekers

“Legislative Hearing on H.R. 3216, H.R. 4150, H.R. 4764, H.R. 5047, H.R. 5083, H.R. 5162, H.R. 5166, H.R. 5392, H.R. 5407, H.R. 5416, H.R.5420, and H.R. 5428.”

“Legislative Hearing on H.R. 3216, H.R. 4150, H.R. 4764, H.R. 5047, H.R. 5083, H.R. 5162, H.R. 5166, H.R. 5392, H.R. 5407, H.R. 5416, H.R.5420, and H.R. 5428.”

https://veterans.house.gov/hearings/legislative-hearing-hr-3216-hr-4150-hr-4764-hr-5047-hr-5083-hr-5162-hr-5166-hr-5392-hr-5407

Miller Statement on Latest Veteran Suicide Data

Miller Statement on Latest Veteran Suicide Data
Today, Chairman Jeff Miller released the below statement regarding the latest veteran suicide data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Any time a person who fought to defend America dies by their own hand, it’s a tragedy. And these numbers are heartbreaking proof that we have a long way to go in order to end this troubling trend. Last year, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which is helping to increase the availability and efficacy of VA’s suicide prevention and mental health services. The law is a step in the right direction, but sustained progress will require a comprehensive approach to help ensure our most at-risk veterans have not only the care they need but also a job, a purpose and a system of support in place to help carry them through their struggles. Therefore, we as a nation must do more to encourage veterans in need to seek treatment and ask for help. And until we stop the epidemic of veteran suicides in this country, there will always be more work to do.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/miller-statement-latest-veteran-suicide-data

“Technology and Treatment: Telemedicine in the VA Healthcare System”

“Technology and Treatment: Telemedicine in the VA Healthcare System”

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/technology-and-treatment-telemedicine-in-the-va-healthcare-system

Miller Applauds House Passage of Veterans Bills

Miller Applauds House Passage of Veterans Bills

Today the House passed three veterans related bills, including:

H.R. 4590, the Fiscal Year 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs Seismic Safety and Construction Authorization Act, as amended, would authorize a number of major medical facility construction projects to improve safety issues at facilities that are at high-risk for earthquakes. It would also require a greater accounting of VA construction expenditures.

H.R. 3936, the VET Act, as amended, would authorize a three-year pilot program for Veteran Engagement Teams, which would allow VA employees to meet one-on-one with veterans to help facilitate the claims process for veterans benefits.

These bills now await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“I applaud the House’s actions today to improve VA’s claims processing efforts and add additional transparency to the department’s construction operations. These bills would help improve veterans’ experiences while encouraging a more functional and efficient VA, and I urge the Senate to consider them in short order.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-applauds-house-passage-of-veterans-bills

Miller Statement on VA Decision to Dump Faster Firing Authority

Miller Statement on VA Decision to Dump Faster Firing Authority

Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement today regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs’ refusal to use expanded legal authorities that enable the VA secretary to swiftly discipline senior executives for cause.

“Everyone knows VA isn’t very good at disciplining employees, but this decision calls into question whether department leaders are even interested in doing so. After all, VA is a place where egregious employee behavior, such as armed robbery participation and wait-time manipulation, is routinely tolerated. This decision underscores the urgent need for civil-service reform across the federal government that enables leaders to swiftly and efficiently discipline those who can’t or won’t do their jobs – an ability that is presently almost nonexistent.”– Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

 

Related

Employees Can Be Involved in Armed Robberies as Long as It’s On Their Own Time, VA Says

Government Executive

April 25, 2016

 

Few People Lost Jobs with VA Scandal

The New York Times

April 22, 2015

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-statement-on-va-decision-to-dump-faster-firing-authority

Legislative Hearing

Legislative Hearing

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-10

Miller Statement on Phoenix VAHCS Firings

Miller Statement on Phoenix VAHCS Firings

Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement today regarding recent firings at the Phoenix VA Health Care System more than two years after the facility’s wait-time scandal became public.

“This decision is the right one for veterans and taxpayers. Deputy Secretary Gibson is correct in saying the process took ‘far too long.’ That’s why the Senate must follow the House’s lead and act to fix the outright dysfunction inherent in our federal civil service rules, which put the job security of VA bureaucrats ahead of the veterans they are charged with serving. The House addressed this issue head-on last July by passing the VA Accountability Act, and it’s well past time for the Senate to get behind this commonsense proposal. In the meantime, VA – forced to tolerate misbehavior throughout its ranks – will continue to lurch from one scandal to another, and veterans will pay the price.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Related

The VA Accountability Act (H.R. 1994) passed the House in July of 2015 and is pending in the Senate. It would give the VA secretary the authority to swiftly fire or demote any employee for poor performance or misconduct while protecting whistleblowers and limiting the agency’s ability to place misbehaving employees on paid leave. It would also give VA the ability to recover annuities on pensions of VA senior executives convicted of felonies committed on the job. 

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-statement-on-phoenix-vahcs-firings

“Access and Accountability: Examining Obstacles to High Quality Patient Care in Louisiana

“Access and Accountability: Examining Obstacles to High Quality Patient Care in Louisiana

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/access-and-accountability-examining-obstacles-to-high-quality-patient-care-in-louisiana

Investigating VA’s Management of Veterans’ Paper Records

Investigating VA’s Management of Veterans’ Paper Records

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/investigating-va-s-management-of-veterans-paper-records

Miller Statement on Obama Administration’s Advocacy for VA Felon Sharon Helman

Miller Statement on Obama Administration’s Advocacy for VA Felon Sharon Helman

Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement today regarding the Justice Department’s legal advocacy for Department of Veterans Affairs felon Sharon Helman.

“I’m outraged by the Obama administration’s decision, which is remarkably hypocritical given the fact that President Obama enthusiastically supported this law. The effect of this reckless action is clear: it undermines very modest reforms to our broken civil service system supported in 2014 by the president and an overwhelming majority of Congress. Today, the Obama administration sent a message loud and clear to felons and those with felonious tendencies everywhere: you will be coddled and protected at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which even before this decision was routinely tolerating egregious behavior among employees such as armed robbery participation and wait-time manipulation. This decision only underscores the urgent need for civil service reform across the federal government that enables leaders to swiftly and efficiently discipline those who can’t or won’t do their jobs – an ability that is presently almost nonexistent. While this matter is still pending in federal court, we will immediately begin exploring legislative remedies to thwart the Obama administration’s blatant advocacy on behalf of those whose mismanagement, malfeasance and crimes may have contributed to veteran and taxpayer harm.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Related

Sharon Helman, Ex-VA Chief in Phoenix, Pleads Guilty to Felony Charge
Phoenix New Times
March 1, 2016

President Obama Heaps Praise on Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act
The White House
Aug. 7, 2016

Employees Can Be Involved in Armed Robberies as Long as It’s On Their Own Time, VA Says
Government Executive
April 25, 2016

Few People Lost Jobs with VA Scandal
The New York Times
April 22, 2015
 

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-statement-on-obama-administration-s-advocacy-for-va-felon-sharon-helman

Chairman Miller Statement Honoring Memorial Day

Chairman Miller Statement Honoring Memorial Day

Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement today in honor of Memorial Day 2016:

“Today, we pause to reflect on and celebrate the service of those who made the ultimate sacrifice while wearing the uniform of our nation. From its inception and to this day, America has been graced with courageous men and women willing to give their lives in defense of our country and all it stands for. We owe these brave souls a debt that can never be repaid. That is precisely why we honor them today and every day, while striving to care for the loved ones they have left behind.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

 

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/chairman-miller-statement-honoring-memorial-day-0

Chairman Miller Statement on House Passage of Veterans Bills

Chairman Miller Statement on House Passage of Veterans Bills

Today the House passed eight veterans related bills, including:

H.R. 3956, the VA Health Center Management Stability and Improvement Act, as amended, would direct the VA to develop and implement a plan to hire a director for each VA medical center without a permanent director, prioritize hiring for facilities that have been without permanent leadership for the longest times, certify compliance with scheduling policy, and ensure that directives and policies apply to each VA office or facility in a uniform manner.

H.R. 3715, the Final Farewell Act of 2016, as amended, would require VA to permit the interment or funeral, memorial service, or ceremony of a deceased veteran at a national cemetery during weekends, other than federal holiday weekends, upon the request of the veteran’s next-of-kin.

H.R. 3989, the Support our Military Caregivers Act, as amended, would allow a veteran or caregiver of a veteran to elect to have an independent contractor perform an external clinical review of their caregiving arrangement through the Family Caregiver Program. It would also require VA to produce a directive for the Family Caregiver Program and require GAO to study the Family Caregiver Program.

H.R. 2460 would direct VA to enter into an agreement or a contract with state veterans homes (SVHs) to pay for adult day health care for a veteran eligible for, but not receiving, nursing home care.

H.R. 5229, the Improving Transition Programs for All Veterans Act, as amended, would require VA to research and report to Congress how the Transition Assistance Program addresses differentiated needs of groups of minority veterans, including women veterans, disabled veterans, Native American veterans, veterans who are residents of a U.S. territory, veterans who are part of the indigenous population of a U.S. territory, and other minority groups.

 

These bills now await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“Today the House took noteworthy steps to improve the welfare of our nation’s veterans and reform VA into an organization truly worthy of the veterans it is charged with serving. These bills will help aid our veterans throughout their lives by improving their transition from active duty to civilian life, providing adult day health care for eligible veterans and holding VA to higher standards of care. I applaud my colleagues in the House for stepping up to pass these important measures, and I call on the Senate to act on them without delay.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/chairman-miller-statement-on-house-passage-of-veterans-bills

Miller Statement on Sec. McDonald’s Disney Comments

Miller Statement on Sec. McDonald’s Disney Comments

Today, Chairman Miller released the following statement regarding VA Secretary Bob McDonald’s comparison of Department of Veterans Affairs wait times to those at a Disney theme park.

“There is nothing amusing about VA’s performance over the past few years, and comparing VA wait times to those of an amusement park is just plain wrong. Wait times are of critical importance to the veterans waiting for VA medical care and they should be to Sec. Bob McDonald as well. In fact, the VA scandal over fraudulent wait times – in which department officials cooked the books in order to make excessive waits for medical care appear shorter – is precisely why McDonald is now VA secretary. Unfortunately, nearly two years after McDonald took over at VA, the department’s wait-time rhetoric doesn’t match up with the reality of veterans’ experiences. But given the fact that VA has successfully fired only a handful of employees for wait-time manipulation while letting the bulk of those behind its nationwide delays-in-care scandal off with no discipline or weak slaps on the wrist, I am not at all surprised these problems persist. And until the department takes steps to remove all who caused VA’s wait-time manipulation problems from the payroll, efforts to reform the agency will never succeed. In the meantime, attempts among department officials to downplay the significance of wait times for VA medical care will only further erode the trust of the veterans the department is charged with serving.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Related

VA HEALTH CARE: Actions Needed to Improve Access to Primary Care for Newly Enrolled Veterans

Government Accountability Office

April 19, 2016

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-statement-on-sec-mcdonald-s-disney-comments

Miller Introduces Legislation to Improve Veterans Health Care, Benefits

Miller Introduces Legislation to Improve Veterans Health Care, Benefits

Today Chairman Miller introduced H.R. 5286, the VA Construction and Lease Authorization, Health, and Benefits Enhancement Act.

The bill would improve Department of Veterans Affairs health care and benefits in a variety of ways, including:

  • Requiring strict background checks for VA physicians
  • Ensuring VA’s West Los Angeles campus is used to benefit veterans, including those who are homeless
  • Authorizing VA to enter into provider agreements to increase access to care in the community for veterans
  • Improving the timeliness of VA payments to private-sector health care providers
  • Authorizing VA to carry out major medical facility projects and leases in a number of states
  • Establishing a national center for research, diagnosis and treatment of toxic-exposure related health conditions of veterans’ descendants
  • Providing eligible veterans compensation for the loss of use of reproductive organs totaling $20,000, which could be used at the veteran’s discretion, including for adoption fees or other personal expenses

After introducing the bill, Chairman Miller released the following statement:

“When it comes to reforming VA into an organization truly worthy of the veterans it is charged with serving, there is still much more work to be done. But H.R. 5286 brings us closer to this goal in a number of different ways, whether it’s ensuring VA has skin in the game when it comes to paying its bills on time, streamlining the department’s process for partnering with private-sector health care providers or fairly compensating some of our most severely injured veterans. I am proud of the work that went into this bill and hopeful we can send it to the Senate in short order.”– Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Read the text of the bill here.

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-introduces-legislation-to-improve-veterans-health-care-benefits

Legislative Hearing on draft legislation to establish a permanent Veterans Choice Program and H.R. 5083, the VA Appeals Modernization Act of 2016

Legislative Hearing on draft legislation to establish a permanent Veterans Choice Program and H.R. 5083, the VA Appeals Modernization Act of 2016

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-on-draft-legislation-to-establish-a-permanent-veterans-choice-program

Denver Field Hearing

Denver Field Hearing

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/denver-field-hearing

Markup of Pending Legislation

Markup of Pending Legislation

http://veterans.house.gov/markup/markup-of-pending-legislation-26

Miller Applauds House Passage Of VA Opioid Legislation

Miller Applauds House Passage Of VA Opioid Legislation

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4063, the Jason Simcakoski Promoting Responsible Opioid Management and Incorporating Scientific Expertise (PROMISE) Act.

The bill would improve Department of Veterans Affairs opioid safety measures by directing all department hospitals to designate pain management teams, ensuring employees that prescribe opioid drugs receive proper training in pain management and safe opioid prescribing practices, and standardizing safe opioid utilization and tracking practices across the system.  The bill also increases accountability by requiring the directors of each VA hospital to certify employees have received the proper training in prescribing opioids. Finally, recognizing the need to ensure safe transition between the Department of Defense and VA, the bill requires an update of joint VA/DoD clinical practice guidelines.

The PROMISE Act is named in honor of Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski, who died of mixed drug toxicitywhile he was an inpatient at the Tomah, Wis., VA Medical Center. A VA investigation found that hospital staff improperly prescribed his medications.  

H.R. 4063 now awaits consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bill, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“A bag of pills is simply not a solution to a veteran’s health care needs. That’s why we must act to reduce VA’s reliance on prescription painkillers and ensure that in instances they are prescribed, VA is doing so safely. Veterans and families shouldn’t have to suffer like Jason Simcakoski and his loved ones have, and if the PROMISE Act becomes law, it will help ensure they won’t.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-applauds-house-passage-of-va-opioid-legislation

Veterans in Tech: Innovative Careers for All Generations of Veterans

Veterans in Tech: Innovative Careers for All Generations of Veterans

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/veterans-in-tech-innovative-careers-for-all-generations-of-veterans

“Combating the Crisis: Evaluating Efforts to Prevent Veteran Suicide

“Combating the Crisis: Evaluating Efforts to Prevent Veteran Suicide

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/combating-the-crisis-evaluating-efforts-to-prevent-veteran-suicide

Miller Statement on Senate Veterans Omnibus Legislation

Miller Statement on Senate Veterans Omnibus Legislation

Following reports of a deal in the Senate regarding an omnibus package of veterans legislation, Chairman Miller released the following statement:

“News of this deal is a positive development. If what Sens. Isakson and Blumenthal are working on passes the Senate, I look forward to immediately engaging in conference committee negotiations in order to move a VA reform package to the president’s desk.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-statement-on-senate-veterans-omnibus-legislation

Miller Statement on Senate Confirmation of VA Inspector General

Miller Statement on Senate Confirmation of VA Inspector General

Following the Senate’s confirmation of Michael Missal to head the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Chairman Miller released the below statement:

“I’m glad that after a six-month wait the Senate has finally confirmed a permanent Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general. Now it’s time for Senators to focus on the 21 veterans-related bills that have passed the House and are now gathering dust in the Senate. These bills include vital measures that would address the department’s accountability crisis, help reduce veteran suicides and improve mental health care for those who have worn the uniform. It’s well past time for the Senate to give these important bills full and fair consideration.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

  

House-Passed Veterans Bills That The Senate is Dithering Over

1.      H.R.3234 VA Medical Center Recovery Act: To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to evaluate the ability of each medical center of the Department to provide quality health care to veterans, to ensure that the Secretary improves such medical centers that are underperforming, and for other purposes.

2.      H.R.3106 Construction Reform Act: To amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the administration of Department medical facility construction projects.

3.      H.R.3016 Veterans Employment, Education, and Healthcare Improvement: To amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs relating to health care, educational assistance, and vocational rehabilitation, to establish the Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration, and for other purposes.

4.      H.R.2915 Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act: To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to identify mental health care and suicide prevention programs and metrics that are effective in treating women veterans as part of the evaluation of such programs by the Secretary, and for other purposes.

5.      H.R.2814 To name the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Sevierville, Tennessee, the Dannie A. Carr Veterans Outpatient Clinic

6.      H.R.2360 Career-Ready Student Veterans Act: To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the approval of certain programs of education for purposes of educational assistance provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

7.      H.R.2256 Veterans Information Modernization Act: To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit an annual report on the Veterans Health Administration, to provide for the identification and tracking of biological implants used in Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, and for other purposes.

8.      H.R.1994 VA Accountability Act of 2015: To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct, and for other purposes.

9.      H.R.1607 Ruth Moore Act of 2015: To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the disability compensation evaluation procedure of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for veterans with mental health conditions related to military sexual trauma, and for other purposes.

10.  H.R.1384 Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act: To amend title 38, United States Code, to recognize the service in the reserve components of certain persons by honoring them with status as veterans under law.

11.  H.R.1382 BRAVE Act: To amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in awarding a contract for the procurement of goods or services, to give a preference to offerors that employ veterans.

12.  H.R.1338 Dignified Interment of Our Veterans Act of 2015: To require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study on matters relating to the burial of unclaimed remains of veterans in national cemeteries, and for other purposes.

13.  H.R.1313 Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Relief Act: To amend title 38, United States Code, to enhance the treatment of certain small business concerns for purposes of Department of Veterans Affairs contracting goals and preferences.

14.  H.R.1038 Ensuring VA Employee Accountability Act: To amend title 38, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to retain a copy of any reprimand or admonishment received by an employee of the Department in the permanent record of the employee.

15.  H.R.677 American Heroes COLA Act of 2015: To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for annual cost-of-living adjustments to be made automatically by law each year in the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans, and for other purposes.

16.  H.R.675 Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2015: To increase, effective as of December 1, 2015, the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans, to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, to improve the processing of claims by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

17.  H.R.474 Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Programs Reauthorization Act of 2015: To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for a five-year extension to the homeless veterans reintegration programs and to provide clarification regarding eligibility for services under such programs.

18.  H.R.294 Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act: To amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into contracts and agreements for the placement of veterans in non-Department medical foster homes for certain veterans who are unable to live independently.

19.  H.R.280 To authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to recoup bonuses and awards paid to employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs: To authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to recoup bonuses and awards paid to employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

20.  H.R.216 Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Planning Reform Act of 2015: To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit to Congress a Future-Years Veterans Program and a quadrennial veterans review, to establish in the Department of Veterans Affairs a Chief Strategy Officer, and for other purposes.

21.  H.R.4336 To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the burial in Arlington National Cemetery of the cremated remains of certain persons whose service has been determined to be active service.

 

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-statement-on-senate-confirmation-of-va-inspector-general

Markup of Pending Legislation

Markup of Pending Legislation

http://veterans.house.gov/markup/markup-of-pending-legislation-25

Legislative Hearing

Legislative Hearing

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-9

Markup of Pending Legislation

Markup of Pending Legislation

http://veterans.house.gov/markup/markup-of-pending-legislation-23

Miller Introduces Bill to Compensate Vets for Loss of Use of Creative Organs

Miller Introduces Bill to Compensate Vets for Loss of Use of Creative Organs

Yesterday, Chairman Miller introduced H.R. 4892, which would help veterans who have suffered a traumatic injury to their reproductive organs and who, as a result, cannot have children. The bill would provide affected veterans compensation for their injuries totaling $20,000, which could be used at the veteran’s discretion, including for adoption fees or other personal expenses.

After introducing the bill, Chairman Miller released the following statement:

“This bill is about providing those who sacrificed more than most can imagine fair compensation and the opportunity to raise a family. If a veteran does decide to use this benefit to start a family of their own, the real winners would be the children. Who better to raise America’s next generation than the bravest of our current generation? But no matter how each affected veteran might utilize this benefit, one thing is clear: they earned it.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Read the bill here.

 

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-introduces-bill-to-compensate-vets-for-loss-of-use-of-creative-organs

Miller Statement on Newly Released VA IG Wait-Time Manipulation Reports

Miller Statement on Newly Released VA IG Wait-Time Manipulation Reports

Today, Chairman Miller released the following statement regarding newly released Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General reports documenting patient wait-time manipulation at 40 VA facilities in 19 states.

“These reports document dysfunction on the part of both the Department of Veterans Affairs and its inspector general. The fact that the IG only released these documents after public pressure from the media as well as Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate is proof that it still has much more to learn when it comes to providing the oversight VA needs and the transparency taxpayers deserve. Nevertheless, the reports outline a host of serious scheduling issues that masked wait times at VA facilities around the country. And in classic VA fashion, almost no one has been seriously held accountable for any of this wrongdoing. In fact, according to VA’s own data, the department has successfully fired just four low-level employees for wait-time manipulation. Right now it’s incumbent on VA leaders to explain why that’s the case given the IG’s findings of widespread wait-time manipulation and other serious problems. And in the meantime, the Senate needs to get in step with veterans service organizations and taxpayers and get behind commonsense legislation like the House-passed VA Accountability Act, which would make it easier for the department to swiftly discipline corrupt and incompetent employees. Until those who caused the wait-time scandal are purged from the VA payroll, the department will never be fixed. Unfortunately, Senate inaction is currently preventing that from happening.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Related

The VA Accountability Act (H.R. 1994) passed the House in July of 2015 and is pending in the Senate. It would give the VA secretary the authority to swiftly fire or demote any employee for poor performance or misconduct while protecting whistleblowers and limiting the agency’s ability to place misbehaving employees on paid leave. It would also give VA the ability to recover annuities on pensions of VA senior executives convicted of felonies committed on the job. 

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-statement-on-newly-released-va-ig-wait-time-manipulation-reports

A Continued Assessment of Delays in Veterans’ Access to Health Care

A Continued Assessment of Delays in Veterans’ Access to Health Care

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/a-continued-assessment-of-delays-in-veterans-access-to-health-care

Legislative Hearing

Legislative Hearing

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-8

Legislative Hearing

Legislative Hearing

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-6

Miller, Rubio Urge SVAC, Senate to Address VA’s Accountability Crisis

Miller, Rubio Urge SVAC, Senate to Address VA’s Accountability Crisis

Today Chairman Miller and Sen. Marco Rubio, sponsors of the House and Senate versions of the VA Accountability Act, wrote to Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, calling on SVAC and the rest of the Senate to address the accountability crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In a letter, Miller and Rubio cautioned Isakson against taking an approach that favors reaching a deal with the Obama administration or others over addressing the department’s serious accountability problems in a meaningful way. View the letter here.

Additionally, Chairman Miller released the following statement:

“Almost every day Americans are reminded that the federal civil service system is designed to coddle and protect corrupt and incompetent bureaucrats rather than facilitate a fair and efficient climate of accountability. Nowhere is this more visible than the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA’s inability to hold problem employees accountable is at the root of all of the department’s most serious problems, and that’s why we are calling on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs – and the Senate as a whole – to act to give the VA secretary swift and comprehensive disciplinary authority over all VA employees. It’s time for the Senate to get in step with veterans and taxpayers and get behind commonsense proposals like the House-passed H.R. 1994 and S. 1082, which would help replace VA’s culture of complacency with a climate of real accountability. Until then, VA – forced to tolerate corruption and incompetence in its ranks – will continue to lurch from one scandal to the next and veterans will continue to suffer.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Chairman Miller and Sen. Rubio Letter to Chairman Isakson
March 31, 2016

RelatedVA Can’t Fire Employee Involved in Armed Robbery Because of Other Criminals on Payroll

After Employee is Charged with Killing Veteran, VA Pays $215K Settlement But Fires No One

VA didn’t fire nurse who participated in surgery while drunk

Instead of Disciplining Bad Docs, VA Pays Them to Do Nothing, Restricting Vets’ Access to Care

VA Doesn’t Fire Heroin-Dealing, Cocaine-Abusing Employees

Top VA Official Admits It’s “Almost Impossible” To Discipline Most VA Employees

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-rubio-urge-svac-senate-to-address-va-s-accountability-crisis

Miller Statement on Latest VA Accountability Failures

Miller Statement on Latest VA Accountability Failures

Today Chairman Miller released the below statement following VA’s announcement that no employees will be seriously disciplined for the biggest construction failure in VA history as well as a separate $400,000 relocation scandal.

“Nearly every day we are reminded that accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs is almost non-existent. Today’s announcement from VA that no one will be seriously disciplined for wasting more than $1 billion on a failed construction project and that a few executives might receive a weak slap on the wrist or a temporary written warning for a relocation scandal that cost taxpayers more than $400,000 is more proof of this sad fact. One thing is clear: this dysfunctional status quo will never change until we eliminate arcane civil service rules that put the job security of VA bureaucrats ahead of the veterans they are charged with serving. The House acted to do just that last summer with passage of the VA Accountability Act, which would give the VA secretary the authority to swiftly fire or demote any VA employee for poor performance or misconduct while protecting whistleblowers and limiting the agency’s ability to place misbehaving employees on paid leave. If the Senate doesn’t follow suit with similar legislation to do the same thing, it is illogical to think VA’s many problems will ever be fixed.”                  – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
 

RelatedVA Can’t Fire Employee Involved in Armed Robbery Because of Other Criminals on Payroll

After Employee is Charged with Killing Veteran, VA Pays $215K Settlement But Fires No One

VA didn’t fire nurse who participated in surgery while drunk

Instead of Disciplining Bad Docs, VA Pays Them to Do Nothing, Restricting Vets’ Access to Care

VA Doesn’t Fire Heroin-Dealing, Cocaine-Abusing Employees

Top VA Official Admits It’s “Almost Impossible” To Discipline Most VA Employees

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-statement-on-latest-va-accountability-failures

Miller Applauds House Passage of Bill to Extend Veterans’ Foreclosure Safeguard

Miller Applauds House Passage of Bill to Extend Veterans’ Foreclosure Safeguard

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 2393, the Foreclosure Relief and Extension for Servicemembers Act of 2015. The bill would extend the foreclosure safeguard provision of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) through December 31, 2017. As part of the bill, eligible veterans are protected from any sale, foreclosure, or seizure of their property without a court order or waiver agreement signed by the servicemember for a one-year period after their active military service.

S. 2393 will now be sent to President Obama for his signature. Following House passage of the bill, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“Those who volunteer for active-duty military service shouldn’t have to worry about financial hardships at home. This bipartisan bill will help provide that peace of mind by giving returning troops a year to get themselves onto steady financial footing following active-duty service, while keeping their property safeguarded from foreclosure. I applaud my colleagues’ commitment to ensuring the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act remains a relevant and viable tool for those who have worn the uniform and their families. I am hopeful President Obama will sign this legislation into law in short order.”– Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

http://veterans.house.gov/press-release/miller-applauds-house-passage-of-bill-to-extend-veterans-foreclosure-safeguard

A Review of Veterans Preference in Federal Government Hiring

A Review of Veterans Preference in Federal Government Hiring

http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/a-review-of-veterans-preference-in-federal-government-hiring

Wreaths Across America Event to Honor Veterans at VA National Cemeteries

Source Article from https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=3990

Aimed at Preventing Suicides, VA Invites 7 Cities to Participate in Mayor’s Challenge

Aimed at Preventing Suicides, VA Invites 7 Cities to Participate in Mayor’s Challenge

December 12, 2017, 04:14:00 PM





Printable Version




WASHINGTON — Today the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the inaugural Mayor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among service members, Veterans and their families. 


The goal of the Mayor’s Challenge is to eliminate suicide by using a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention.  


“Of the 20 suicides a day that we reported last year, 14 were not under VA care,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “We are pleased to partner with SAMHSA to bring attention, education and support regarding suicide prevention to communities where our Veterans live.” 


VA and SAMHSA will invite seven cities to participate in a policy academy process that up until now has been available only to states and territories. The cities will be invited based on Veteran population data, suicide prevalence rates and capacity of the city to lead the way in this first phase of the Mayor’s Challenge.  


The selected cities will be announced mid-December, once they have formally accepted nominations.  


Teams from each of the seven cities will meet March 14-16, 2018, in Washington, D.C., to develop strategic action plans to implement in their communities. The teams will include collaborative groups of community, municipal, military and other stakeholders. VA will provide technical assistance to support local efforts and to document outcomes and share strategies with other municipalities. 


Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use at SAMHSA, said, “We must act now to accelerate suicide prevention efforts at the local level, with communities embracing and supporting the health and well-being of our service members, Veterans and their families.” 


Cities interested in learning more about the Mayor’s Challenge, can submit a request for information form at https://pra.typeform.com/to/C2Zv2B


For more information on VA’s suicide prevention campaign, visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/bethere


For information on SAMHSA’s suicide prevention efforts, visit https://www.samhsa.gov/suicide-prevention/samhsas-efforts.  


Veterans in crisis or having thoughts of suicide — and those who know a Veteran in crisis — should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255. 


###




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Source Article from https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=3989

Aimed at Preventing Suicides, VA Invites 7 Cities to Participate in Mayor’s Challenge

Aimed at Preventing Suicides, VA Invites 7 Cities to Participate in Mayor’s Challenge

December 12, 2017, 04:14:00 PM





Printable Version




WASHINGTON — Today the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the inaugural Mayor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among service members, Veterans and their families. 


The goal of the Mayor’s Challenge is to eliminate suicide by using a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention.  


“Of the 20 suicides a day that we reported last year, 14 were not under VA care,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “We are pleased to partner with SAMHSA to bring attention, education and support regarding suicide prevention to communities where our Veterans live.” 


VA and SAMHSA will invite seven cities to participate in a policy academy process that up until now has been available only to states and territories. The cities will be invited based on Veteran population data, suicide prevalence rates and capacity of the city to lead the way in this first phase of the Mayor’s Challenge.  


The selected cities will be announced mid-December, once they have formally accepted nominations.  


Teams from each of the seven cities will meet March 14-16, 2018, in Washington, D.C., to develop strategic action plans to implement in their communities. The teams will include collaborative groups of community, municipal, military and other stakeholders. VA will provide technical assistance to support local efforts and to document outcomes and share strategies with other municipalities. 


Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use at SAMHSA, said, “We must act now to accelerate suicide prevention efforts at the local level, with communities embracing and supporting the health and well-being of our service members, Veterans and their families.” 


Cities interested in learning more about the Mayor’s Challenge, can submit a request for information form at https://pra.typeform.com/to/C2Zv2B


For more information on VA’s suicide prevention campaign, visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/bethere


For information on SAMHSA’s suicide prevention efforts, visit https://www.samhsa.gov/suicide-prevention/samhsas-efforts.  


Veterans in crisis or having thoughts of suicide — and those who know a Veteran in crisis — should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255. 


###




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Source Article from https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=3989

Aimed at Preventing Suicides, VA Invites 7 Cities to Participate in Mayor’s Challenge

Aimed at Preventing Suicides, VA Invites 7 Cities to Participate in Mayor’s Challenge

December 12, 2017, 04:14:00 PM





Printable Version




WASHINGTON — Today the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the inaugural Mayor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among service members, Veterans and their families. 


The goal of the Mayor’s Challenge is to eliminate suicide by using a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention.  


“Of the 20 suicides a day that we reported last year, 14 were not under VA care,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “We are pleased to partner with SAMHSA to bring attention, education and support regarding suicide prevention to communities where our Veterans live.” 


VA and SAMHSA will invite seven cities to participate in a policy academy process that up until now has been available only to states and territories. The cities will be invited based on Veteran population data, suicide prevalence rates and capacity of the city to lead the way in this first phase of the Mayor’s Challenge.  


The selected cities will be announced mid-December, once they have formally accepted nominations.  


Teams from each of the seven cities will meet March 14-16, 2018, in Washington, D.C., to develop strategic action plans to implement in their communities. The teams will include collaborative groups of community, municipal, military and other stakeholders. VA will provide technical assistance to support local efforts and to document outcomes and share strategies with other municipalities. 


Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use at SAMHSA, said, “We must act now to accelerate suicide prevention efforts at the local level, with communities embracing and supporting the health and well-being of our service members, Veterans and their families.” 


Cities interested in learning more about the Mayor’s Challenge, can submit a request for information form at https://pra.typeform.com/to/C2Zv2B


For more information on VA’s suicide prevention campaign, visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/bethere


For information on SAMHSA’s suicide prevention efforts, visit https://www.samhsa.gov/suicide-prevention/samhsas-efforts.  


Veterans in crisis or having thoughts of suicide — and those who know a Veteran in crisis — should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255. 


###




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Source Article from https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=3989

VA Decision Ready Claims Program Expands to Include More Types of Claims

Source Article from https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=3988

Reopening of Lafayette Building in D.C. Highlights VA’s Modernization Efforts

Source Article from https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=3987

Women Veterans: Retreat Healthy and Healing

Women Veterans on the lake in canoes

Women Veterans retreat at Indian Lake, Adirondack Mountains — New York

For the past two summers, Northport VA Medical Center staff has used the serene setting of Indian Lake, nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, to create a healthy and healing atmosphere for women Veterans.

Healing in Nature Retreats—funded entirely through donations—lasted six days and hosted nine women Veterans on this trip. The retreat is designed to promote whole health and wellness by providing a meaningful experience in nature that facilitates exploration of personal wellness goals, aids discovery of individual strengths and resiliency, and empowers women Veterans to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Women traditionally take on the caretaker role, many times putting the needs of others ahead of their own. But during the retreat, the focus is put where it should be—on the women themselves.

At the 2017 retreat, participants ranged in age from 34 to 73. The Veterans dealt with mental health challenges, including PTSD, military sexual trauma, and major depressive disorder. Additionally, each suffered from at least one chronic disease or a chronic pain condition.

“It exceeded my expectations. I re-established the importance of self-care and focusing on my own needs.”

“Part of what makes this special is that the atmosphere is safe and accepting to them,” said Dr. Joanne Taylor, Northport VAMC psychologist. “Women in particular, have a very hard time letting go of the caregiver role. This allowed them to focus on themselves. And for some, it was their first time away from children and family.”

 

For Stacy, 40, a USMC Veteran, the goal was just being able to relax and find time to focus on herself.

“That’s not something I do easily,” she said. “I don’t often put my needs out there. I’m a single mom and go out of my way for other people. So for me to put my needs out there is difficult … way out of my comfort zone.”

Slowing down doesn’t come naturally for Stacy, but that’s what it took for her to discover what she needed. The whirlwind of activity in her day-to-day schedule prevented her from seeing this, but the retreat gave her a different perspective.

“It exceeded my expectations,” she said. “Not only was I able to slow down, but I also was able to change my thinking so that I could maintain that. I re-established the importance of self-care and focusing on my own needs, and why that is so important.”

Veterans participated in activities during the day—such as whitewater rafting, yoga, archery, creative writing and storytelling—followed by periods of reflection in the evenings to process the day’s events and work toward individual wellness goals. Part of the personal wellness planning was to identify why their health was important to them.


“When they stop to think about why it’s important, it solidifies the movement to a healthy lifestyle,” said Taylor. “They set behavioral goals, which could be weight loss to improve diabetes or increasing social activities to decrease depression and incorporating more psychotherapy. It is about creating an atmosphere of psychological safety and trust to allow the Veterans to work on various issues.”

One way that atmosphere is created is by removing the cooking, cleaning, and normal chores of everyday life.

“It was hard for me not to pick up the dishes,” said Stacy. “Just the thought that they were so well prepared caught me off guard. The feeling of relief I had (at not having to prepare meals/clean up) made me realize how important a feeling like that is. The wheels had stopped turning. This was the most time I’d spent thinking of myself.”

While other Veterans went whitewater rafting, Stacy sat on the sidelines, choosing to remain with support staff and reflect inward.

“It wasn’t like I didn’t want to participate (in rafting),” she said. “It was harder for me to sit out and focus on myself. I’ve never in my life been away by myself, not even for a day. Military, family or work. My focus is 24/7 on others, it’s never me.”

Another Veteran, Jane, hoped to connect with other Veterans who would understand some of the things she experienced during her 29 years in the Army.  

“It was probably the best six days that I’ve spent since I came home in 2012,” Jane said. “Just being able to be heard by people who understand was the best part.”

Jane expressed the feeling that it’s still a man’s Army, but women Veterans have different needs that must be addressed. She said this retreat is of paramount importance and hopes that it will be continued for many years to come.

Stacy added, “We have difficulties relating to other women who aren’t Veterans. It’s very easy for women Veterans to become alone and isolate themselves. You lose that bond and become this other class of citizen that winds up being alone.”

Both Stacy and Jane were able to re-establish bonds and form female friendships with the women at the retreat.

“Some were fearful,” said Rose Williamson, Women’s Program manager. “There was a lot of crying, but the group really became as one toward the end of the week, with one purpose and one goal. They formed bonds that will be lifelong. The group last year is so connected with each other and this one will continue that, too.”


One exercise sure to bring back memories of the retreat and inspire them to further self-improvement is a letter that each Veteran wrote to herself prior to the week’s end.

“We will mail them three months later to give them time to put it everything in place,” said Taylor. “It will be a reminder of what they experienced and what they hoped moving forward.”

Both Stacy and Jane said the staff—Recreation Therapy; Wellness Program; Women’s Health; Psychology; and Chaplain Service — was excellent, going above and beyond to make sure the Veterans felt comfortable and had what they needed.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2017/December/Women-Veterans-Retreat-Healthy-and-Healing.asp

Reopening of Lafayette Building in D.C. Highlights VA’s Modernization Efforts

Source Article from https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=3987

VA Exploring Alternative Treatments for TBI and PTSD

Source Article from https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=3986

Statement by Secretary Shulkin – Homeless Funding

Source Article from https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=3985


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