Jul 28 2014
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today released the following statement on the agreement reached among conferees on legislation to reform veterans’ care:
“I am gratified that an agreement has been reached on emergency legislation to begin addressing the most pressing issues raised by the ongoing scandal in veterans’ health care, which began with revelations in Phoenix before spreading across the country this year.
“In particular, America owes a debt of gratitude to Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL), whose dogged and determined oversight work as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs exposed to the nation this shameful scandal in veterans’ care. I thank my friends, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), who have long fought for veterans to have more choices in health providers, and for more oversight and accountability in the VA bureaucracy. Finally, I thank Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), with whom I agree on very little politically, but whose tenacity and passion on behalf of America’s veterans cannot be questioned.
“This bill is a beginning – not an end – to the efforts that must be taken to address this crisis. Still, this legislation includes some of the most significant changes to the VA in decades.
“For the first time in history, veterans will receive a Choice Card. If a veteran can’t make an appointment in a reasonable time frame or lives far from a VA medical facility, they will be able to go to the doctor of their choice to get the care they’ve earned and deserve. I have long advocated for our veterans to have the flexibility to choose where and when they receive the care they have earned, and this bill moves us in that direction.
“This legislation also brings badly-needed accountability to VA operations. It includes provisions empowering VA administrators to immediately fire poor-performing employees with no pay while they appeal their cases. The recent VA audits have found that, around the country, VA managers and employees routinely falsified data on how well VA health care facilities performed in order to fraudulently secure bonuses. Such problems point to systemic and cultural problems that must be dealt with head-on, by holding individuals responsible.
“This bill also extends the Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury. This vital program provides 24-hour care to veterans in Arizona and around the country with traumatic brain injuries. The program was originally set to expire by the end of this fiscal year, but it will now be extended for three more years.
“This bill is a compromise, so none of us got everything we wanted. And even as there is much more to do to fulfill our solemn responsibilities to all who have served, today’s agreement represents a significant step forward toward addressing this crisis.
“I look forward to rapid passage this week before Congress adjourns for the August recess.”