Gerlach urges rapid response to ensure veterans' access to medical care

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Washington, May 29 | comments
Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District) said Thursday that swift action is needed on several fronts to address the gross mismanagement, inexcusable delays in providing basic medical care to our veterans and shocking dishonesty plaguing the Veterans Affairs health system.

Responding to an inspector general's preliminary report that found 1,700 veterans were practically forgotten on secret waiting lists at the Phoenix VA and forced to wait an average of almost 4 months to get an appointment with a VA doctor, Gerlach called for the following rapid response actions:
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki should submit his immediate resignation or be fired by President Obama, with additional terminations and disciplinary action to other responsible VA employees as warranted.

  • President Obama should authorize payments to private doctors or medical facilities for any veteran who has not received timely medical care within the VA system.

  • The Department of Justice needs to establish a task force to investigate and prosecute any VA official who violated the law in delaying care to our veterans.

"The problems outlined in the inspector general's report prove just how lethal bureaucracy and a lack of accountability can be," Gerlach said. "Veterans in need of a caring, helping hand have been getting a cold shoulder from the Department of Veterans Affairs for too long, and that must end. Our veterans have already put their lives on the line serving our country. They shouldn't have to risk their lives again simply trying to schedule a doctor's appointment."

The VA's Office of Inspector General issued a report on Wednesday that found delays in providing medical care to veterans and intentional manipulation of records to cover up the actual length of delays is "systemic throughout" the Veterans Affairs medical system. You can read the VA Inspector General’s full report here.

Congressman Gerlach has worked with his colleagues in the House to:

INCREASE ACCOUNTABILITY -- He voted for H.R. 4031 – the VA Management Accountability Act. The bill passed the House with broad bipartisan support by a vote of 390-33 earlier this month. This bill would increase accountability by giving the Veterans Administration Secretary the authority to fire or demote senior executives who are not doing their jobs.

-- Gerlach also voted for H.R. 4486, the Military Construction & Veteran Affairs Appropriations Act, on April 30. The bill included a provision banning performance bonuses for senior VA executives.  When veterans and their families are waiting, in some cases, nearly a year for the VA to process their application for health and disability benefits, someone is not doing their job properly and VA executives certainly do not deserve bonuses.

-- On April 30, Gerlach voted for H.R. 4486 -- a budget bill that would provide a 7 percent increase in VA funding for Fiscal Year 2015. In addition, the bill would provide $20 million more than the President proposed for helping to clean up the VA claims backlog. Last year, the Congressman supported a budget bill that increased spending for veterans' programs, including medical care, by 10 percent for Fiscal Year 2014.

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