“I want to be held accountable to fix this.”
During a press conference Wednesday, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin acknowledged the pressing issues that ail the VA. His call for greater accountability is both welcome and needed. Shulkin addressed several areas where the VA falls short, including:
Access to care: As Shulkin pointed out, in 30 locations, many veterans still wait more than 60 days for both primary and mental health care. Too many providers are still failing to meet follow-up times, and 16 percent of primary care clinics are over 100 percent capacity. To fix this, veterans need increased choice on where they can receive care.
Accountability: Shulkin said there are about 1,500 pending disciplinary actions at the VA, but under current rules it’s almost impossible to hold bad employees accountable. Often, judges force the VA to return terrible managers to their posts. To fix this, Shulkin said legislative action is necessary.
Bureaucracy: Currently, there is too much centralization and red tape that prevent veterans from making decisions. Shulkin said the VA’s goal is to reduce their overhead spending by 10 percent. Congress should help them by eliminating onerous regulations.
Fraud and waste: While the department has made great strides in reducing $27 million in fraudulent payments, there is still a long way to go. Shulkin made clear these “issues are not because [they] are missing the financial resources,” and that throwing more money at the system is not the solution. Instead, Shulkin proposed more oversight, which is why the VA is forming a committee to address fraud and waste.
Shulkin is correct in his desire to address the VA’s problems. Our veterans have sacrificed so much, and they deserve access to quality care. But for lasting reform to occur, Congress must act. They can begin to tackle the problem of accountability right now by passing the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. Tell your Senator to support VA reform!