May 1st, 2014

May 1, 2014

As each week passes we are learning more about the inexcusable backlog within the Veterans Affairs agency.  We must reduce the VA backlog and hold those within the Department of Veterans Affairs accountable for their actions. This week my colleagues and I passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015. This bill will help to boost essential Veterans programs and fulfill our moral and legal obligation to them.

We have made promises to our veterans and it is our duty to keep them. I, along with my colleagues in the House, have sent letters to Secretary Eric Shinseki on working to reduce the overwhelming backlog.  As of April 26th, there are a total of 319,363 backlogged claims. These veterans put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms and our way of life and we are forever indebted to them. As Americans, we owe it to them to address their claims in a timely manner.  The Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill will allocate the necessary funds to ensure that efforts to end the disability claims backlog are available. This bill secures $158 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, a 7 percent increase of funding over the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.

By demanding timely and accurate exchanges of medical data between Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and the private sector we will be able to ensure that our veterans are receiving the best medical care possible. Just like any other government agency, oversight is necessary to make sure that they are carrying out their responsibilities. The funds allocated will also increase oversight of taxpayer dollars at Veterans Affairs by requiring reports on construction expenditures and savings.

Across the nation we have seen a lack of accountability coming from the Department of Veterans Affairs. A recent investigation conducted by the Veterans’ Affairs Committee found that due to the inexcusably-long wait times for medical care, many veterans have died because they were unable to receive the treatment they need.  This should never happen and needs to end now.

While Veterans Affairs has started to chip away at the backlog and claims are decreasing, we must make sure delays like this don’t happen again. As of April 1st 2014 there are 14,505 claims pending and of those 8,094 are considered backlogged. It takes approximately six months for a claim to be processed in Ohio – that’s over six months for a veteran to receive necessary medical attention.

As we continue to look into the issues that plague the Department of Veterans Affairs, we have found that many senior executives at the agency were receiving bonuses while failing our nation’s veterans. Rewarding senior executives of an organization that has had a terrible performance record is absolutely outrageous and disrespectful to those who are not receiving the benefits they deserve from this agency. The senior executives received bonuses totaling $2.8 million in 2011 and $2.3 million in 2012. This money could have been used to ensure that our veterans received the treatment and service they deserve.  Those responsible should not even have jobs, let alone bonus payments.

We have an obligation to those who serve our country and we must make sure that we have the resources necessary for them to carry out their mission along with making sure we take care of their families when they return home. Our veterans have made sacrifices and our country can begin to pay them back by helping them receive the care and support they need most.