Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has proposed new legislation that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General to report to Congress on the wait times that veterans are seeing at VA health care clinics across the country.
It would also prevent any VA clinic from closing until the Veterans Affairs secretary confirms that the closing would not further add to wait times for veterans.
Thune’s bill is the latest reaction to reports that employees at VA health clinics in Arizona and Colorado made false entries to make it seem like veterans were being seen soon after making an appointment, when really they were waiting months. Officials at the Phoenix, Arizona clinic have since been placed on leave, and many Republicans have called on President Barack Obama to fire Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski.
“Veterans across the country are being forced to wait for necessary medical care due to poor management by the Veterans Administration,” Thune said Monday when he proposed his bill. “Our veterans have served with honor and dignity, only to be told to get in line to receive treatment for the results of their service and sacrifice.
“The current state of affairs of our veterans’ health care is embarrassing and change is needed,” he added. “This report would give us a clear picture of where change is necessary so we can address this critical issue.”
President Barack Obama has so far said he supports Shinseki’s effort to get to the bottom of the health care delays, which some say could have contributed to the deaths of dozens of veterans. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday said he would rather the focus stay on the investigation rather than the removal of Shinseki.
But the pressure is clearly growing on Shinseki. Last week, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Calif.) said Shinseki must take immediate steps to step up efforts to treat veterans, “or explain to the American people and America’s veterans why we should tolerate the status quo.”
Last week, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved a subpoena requiring Shinseki to provide all documents related to the Phoenix scandal.
And on Thursday, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “The State of VA Health Care” in which Shinseki is expected to testify.
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