Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 15, 2014

House GOP Leaders Call for Obama to Be Active in Fixing VA System

boehnercantor090613 445x296 House GOP Leaders Call for Obama to Be Active in Fixing VA System

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The top four House Republicans sent President Barack Obama a letter on Wednesday morning, making requests and seeking solutions in the aftermath of the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Speaker John A. Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers wrote that, less than a week after VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, Obama must now make short- and long-term plans to address the systemic failures that led to the patient backlogs at veterans’ hospitals around the country.

In doing so, they formalized in writing many of the complaints they have already been making regarding the Obama administration’s handling of veterans’ issues and continued to put pressure on the president as the midterm elections approach.

“It is imperative that you lay out for the American people your vision for reforming what is clearly a broken system,” the four GOP leaders wrote. “Are you willing to do whatever it takes, pending the results of the investigations that are underway, to ensure our veterans get the care we owe them, even if it means shaking up the current bureaucracy and rethinking the entire system? Do you agree the VA is a system that may need to be fundamentally transformed in order to meet its mandate of service and care to our nation’s veterans?

“The VA scandal is a national disgrace,” they continued, “and Americans are eager to know the extent of your willingness to personally take action in order to make things right for those who have served.”

Boehner, Cantor, McCarthy and McMorris Rodgers capped off their pointed suggestion that Obama may not be doing enough to help veterans by making three specific requests.

First, they said, Obama should “publicly call on Senate Democrats to reconsider their obstruction” of House-passed legislation providing the VA secretary with the authority to fire or demote under-performing senior officials. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., offered Senate Republicans a compromise on Tuesday wherein they would vote on the House’s bill in exchange for not blocking consideration of a different VA bill offered by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders, I-Vt.

Next, said the Republican leaders, Obama must “direct the VA to cooperate with the House and Senate as both chambers conduct the necessary oversight.

“As you may … know,” they continued, “the department has repeatedly failed to provide the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee with timely information. This is unacceptable and unnecessary.”

Finally, they called on Obama to support legislation soon to be introduced by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., that would “give any veteran unable to obtain an appointment within 30 days the option to receive non-VA care.”

“We ask that you support this proposal, or offer an immediate, effective alternative,” they wrote.

In the days before Shinseki agreed to step down in a gesture of taking responsibility for the misconduct that had occurred within the lower ranks of his agency, Republican leaders were reluctant to join the growing chorus of calls on both sides of the aisle for the VA secretary’s head, preferring instead to keep the onus on Obama for as long as possible.

McCarthy was the only House GOP leader to break from that unspoken agreement to stay mum on the matter.

Here is the full letter:

Dear Mr. President:

We write to express deep concern regarding the systemic problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs and its affiliated Veterans Health Administration facilities. You recently announced that Secretary Shinseki resigned and that you intend to replace him. We do not believe this addresses the fundamental problem – which is the abject failure of the department to meet the needs of our veterans.

Much more needs to be done. “Our first job,” you said last week, “is let’s take care of some basic management issues.” We agree, which is why, last month, the House voted overwhelmingly to pass H.R. 4031, the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act. This legislation provides the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with the authority to remove or demote senior officials who are underperforming. This is much-needed given your own audit’s findings that “some front-line, middle, and senior managers felt compelled to manipulate” records to meet performance goals. Unfortunately, as you may know, Senate Democrats blocked the measure, after it received 390 votes in the House. We ask that you publicly call on Senate Democrats to reconsider their obstruction, and immediately pass H.R. 4031 so we can begin to address these “basic management issues.”

Next, we request that you direct the VA to cooperate with the House and Senate as both chambers conduct the necessary oversight. As you may also know, the department has repeatedly failed to provide the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee with timely information. This is unacceptable and unnecessary. You yourself have said that addressing this problem should not be politicized, which is why we hope this will not continue to be an issue.

Third, your administration has proposed to “triage” 1,700 veterans who are waiting for care in Phoenix, Arizona. In light of the systemic nature of this problem, however, how will you address veterans who are waiting for care across the country? All veterans on waiting lists should be able to easily access care outside the VA without waiting for a potentially corrupt facility to approve their request. Our veterans should not be left in limbo, relying on what your own audit acknowledges is a “systemic lack of integrity within some Veterans Health Administration facilities.” In the House, Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller is introducing legislation that would give any veteran unable to obtain an appointment within 30 days the option to receive non-VA care. We ask that you support this proposal, or offer an immediate, effective alternative.

While all of these are strong first steps, none are a substitute for long-term solutions. It is imperative that you lay out for the American people your vision for reforming what is clearly a broken system. Are you willing to do whatever it takes, pending the results of the investigations that are underway, to ensure our veterans get the care we owe them, even if it means shaking up the current bureaucracy and rethinking the entire system? Do you agree the VA is a system that may need to be fundamentally transformed in order to meet its mandate of service and care to our nation’s veterans? The VA scandal is a national disgrace, and Americans are eager to know the extent of your willingness to personally take action in order to make things right for those who have served.

We look forward to your response to our short-term requests as well as your long-term plan to ensure that we keep our promises to our veterans and their families.

Sincerely,

Rep. John Boehner

Rep. Eric Cantor

Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

  • http://none.com Jack Everett

    Where has the house VA oversight committees been for the past several decades while this was going on? Maybe they need less vacation time.

  • SFD

    You can’t turn a TYPEWRITER INTO AND IPAD. So NO Congress person received a fax, email, letter, or phone call complaining about the VA FRAUD against veterans? (Of course they did, I personally sat in a Senator and a Representatives office many a day and stated what is now the VA scandal). ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT NO CONGRESS MEMBER RECEIVED A FAX, EMAIL, LETTER, OR PHONE CALL FROM VETERANS COMPLAINING ABOUT THE VERY SCANDAL ENGULFING THE VA? Of course they did over and over and over.

    3) It would take 6% of the VA’s $160 billion budget to give every disabled veteran in America a PRIVATE insurance card. Did you know that ONLY 15% of the VA budget goes to DISABLED VETERANS?

    2) We have an answer: Beginning next week EVERY disabled and injured veteran will file lawsuits against the VA for fraud and medical malpractice. The fraud stems from the VA breaking its contract with veterans. We were promised the BEST care for as long as we needed it due to our major injuries from the wars.

    1) We will be deposing and subpoenaing those members of Congress that have called the VA a fraud and those that received warnings and complaints from veterans and did NOTHING to help.

    Congress is going to fix the VA the way they fixed WALL STREET. For the average civilian-back us. These vets are good people with normal American PRIVATE care they would just go back to their lives before they were in the military (as their admission into and service indicates, that is they were fine when they joined or they COULDN’T have joined). Without it you end up with the DC shipyard shooting (http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/25/us/washington-navy-yard-investigation/)- imagine if Elliot Rodger was a veteran SKILLED in AMBUSHES or the NEWTOWN school shooter…you would have HUNDREDS of dead not 6 and 26 respectively. Imagine if the mentally broken soldier that killed Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle went into your kids school or your place of work? Let’s stop this BEFORE it begins FOLKS-the life you save may be your OWN. VETERANS AGAINST THE VA https://twitter.com/VAGAINSTTHEVA

    THE TRUTH THEY AREN’T TELLING YOU-THIS IS A WALL STREET/HEALTHCARE.GOV SCAM ALL OVER AGAIN:

    VETERANS GROUPS CALLS FOR VA TO BE SHUT DOWNhttps://finance.yahoo.com/news/veterans-group-seeks-eliminate-va-100000344.html

    MEDAL OF HONOR WINNER SAYS CLOSE VA

    http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/va-hospital-scandal/want-fix-va-health-care-get-rid-it-n106601

    PROMINENT NY TIMES COLUMNIST AGREES WITH GROUP’S CONTENTION TO CLOSE VA:

    http://www.spokesman.com/stories/1995/jan/14/this-dinosaur-must-die-soon/

    WE WARNED ABOUT THE VA WELL BEFORE ARIZONA

    http://www.publishpr.com/189/veterans-group-formed-to-eliminate-the-veterans-administration

    NBC FLORIDA STORY/MONTANA INTERVIEW

    http://www.nbc-2.com/story/25509709/veterans-group-wants-to-eliminate-va#.U3PA-CxOXIU

    http://newstalkkgvo.com/?submit_button=&s=JEROME+ALMON

  • Dopple Gang

    While redistributing wealth may temporarily equalize conditions, it does so by grinding the gears of progress to a torturous halt.

  • Yonatan YONATAN

    THE REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS HAVE FAILED THE MORE THAN 2.6 MILLION UNEMPLOYED FAMILIES WITH AN UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENTION SINCE LATE LAST DECEMBER. THEY HAVE CHOSEN TO DENY THESE FINANCIALLY CRIPPLED FAMILIES AN EXTENSION OF BENEFITS THAT MIGHT HELP THEM TO REMAIN AFLOAT UNTIL THEY FIND EMPLOYMENT. INSTEAD OF LENDING THEM A HELPING HAND UP, THEY CHOSE TO KNOCK THEM DOWN, WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF RECOVERING.. THESE FAMILIES ARE IN DIRE FINANCIAL NEED, AND DESPERATELY NEED HELP. BILLIONS OF TAX PAYER DOLLARS, HAVE JUST BEEN APPROVED FOR THE UKRAINE. WHAT ABOUT AMERICANS HERE AND NOW?

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