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2016-03-24

National & state pols lament about continued manipulation of veteran wait times across Texas

Compiled by BCC Editor Judith Pannebaker

Compiled by BCC Editor Judith Pannebaker

Texas’ national political leaders – Rep. Lamar Smith and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, along with Governor Greg Abbott, have responded to the release of several long-awaited Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (IG) reports on wait times for Texas veterans.
On March 8, the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General released 12 reports on VA Health Care Systems in Texas. Seven of the reports revealed instances of scheduling mismanagement that led to extended veteran wait times.
Additionally, the reports identified poor training, lack of supervision and non-centralized scheduling as the primary causes of data manipulation. The report also concluded that improper scheduling is systemic throughout the VA Texas Health Care System.
“The findings of the IG’s report are discouraging – but not surprising. The report underscores the fact that the Department of Veterans Affairs’ problems are systemic and widespread,” Smith said,
He continued, “That is certainly not news for the tens of thousands of veterans in my district or the millions waiting for care across the nation. I will continue to hold VA officials accountable to ensure these problems are addressed. Our veterans deserve the best care, not delayed care.”
Cornyn, Cruz and Abbott sent a letter to US Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald urging him to address the improper scheduling practices and extended wait times for veterans seeking healthcare across Texas.
“We remain troubled that the VA continues to fail to provide timely health care to our nation’s veterans, despite receiving enhanced authorities and funding from Congress to hire new employees and address additional problems facing the VA,” they wrote.
“Our veterans have fulfilled their solemn duty to the nation, and the VA has an obligation to provide them with timely, high-quality health care.”
As early as May 2014, Smith led 23 fellow members of the Texas delegation who called for an investigation into allegations of misconduct at three VA facilities in Texas. That June, he took his concerns directly to the acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs in a meeting at Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital.
In September 2015, Smith assembled a Military and Veterans Council to provide regular updates on issues facing the more than 60,000 veterans, current members of the military and the families who live in the 21st congressional district.
Smith has also supported several key pieces of legislation intended to hold VA leadership accountable for widespread failures and improve care for veterans.
Last year, Cornyn and Cruz successfully passed an amendment to the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2016 requiring the VA Secretary to provide Congress with a plan to address the long wait times for veterans seeking health care at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.
Despite the best intentions, it seems that SNAFU still reigns at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC.