House Republicans are planning to pass more legislation in the coming weeks aimed at reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, and are also calling on President Barack Obama to move more swiftly to stop the damage being done to veterans by the VA healthcare scandal.
“The Secretary says he has the tools to do the job. He has not used those tools,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) at a Thursday press conference with other Republicans.
“We are going to give him more tools in order to do what it necessary to get the veterans the care, the benefits and the honor that they’ve earned.”
The House has already passed one bill that would give the VA Secretary the authority to more quickly discipline or fire officials involved in the healthcare scandal, which appears to have contributed to the death of more than 40 veterans. But Senate Democrats prevented that bill from passing last week, which led to more GOP criticism on Thursday.
“Where is the urgency?” asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “The House will continue to act swiftly on behalf of the men and women who served this nation with distinction and honor. We owe them that.”
Cantor also demanded that President Barack Obama play more of a role to resolve the problems at the VA.
“Accountability for this starts at the very top,” he said. “Senior appointed leaders in the cabinets and agencies ultimately report to President Obama. It’s time the President specifically addresses what he plans to do to fix this problem now.”
Republican leaders have not said what other bills might come up to help the VA manage the crisis, although several members have said more bills are coming. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) told TheBlaze last weekend that Republicans were mulling several legislative alternatives.
Cantor was expected to meet Thursday night with Miller to discuss legislative options that could come up over the next few weeks.
One bill expected to come up this week is the Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act, from Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.). That bill would require the VA’s Inspector General to report to Congress if it believes the VA has not implemented the IG’s recommendations.
It would also require the VA to give Congress the names of officials responsible for implementing those recommendations, and to instruct those people to adopt these changes.
On Wednesday, the VA’s Inspector General released an interim report that found evidence that VA officials were manipulating healthcare wait lists, and that 1,700 veterans seeking care were not on any wait list at all. The VA has been accused for years of ignoring reports from the IG and others noting problems with healthcare wait times.