02.15.17

Kilmer & Newhouse Reintroduce Bill to Fix Veterans Healthcare System Mismanagement Issues

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) reintroduced legislation to force the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to move forward on fixes to its mismanagement issues. Their bill, the VA Management Alignment Act of 2017, would direct the head of the VA to issue a report to Congress detailing the steps they will take to reorganize and effectively improve veterans’ access to quality care.   

The legislation, supported by the American Legion and the American Federation of Government Employees, follows the release of comprehensive studies that uncovered management problems at the VHA. The reports that have been issued so far by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have uncovered problems with the VA’s human resource department and that the VA did not follow through on internal and Congressional recommendations to fix the problems of manipulated wait times and management failures. Additional reports will be released to the public this year.

“Veterans have sacrificed to protect us – we need to have their backs,” said Kilmer. “Stories and reports about manipulated wait times and mismanagement in our VA system proved that systemic reforms were needed. We are calling on the VA to address management challenges and improve care so veterans get the services they have earned.”

“Every veteran deserves the highest level of care,” said Newhouse. “The men and women who served in uniform demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice for our country, and now it’s our responsibility to ensure the VA undertakes a framework to address systemic problems. Rep. Kilmer and I are committed to ensuring our nation’s veterans have access to accountable, improved care.”

The bill from Kilmer and Newhouse calls for the VA to deliver their report to the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives within 180 days of the act’s passage. The report would spell out the roles and responsibilities for senior staff and organizational units within the VA and how they work together to promote efficiency and accountability.

In 2014, news reports came out about patient delays at the Phoenix VA and other facilities across the country. A national audit of the VA was conducted and it was found at the time that the VA Puget Sound hospital had new patients waiting 59 days – on average – for an appointment. Nearly 100,000 veterans use the VA Puget Sound system. Nationally, the audit found that 13 percent of VA schedulers reported that supervisors told them to manipulate appointments to make wait times look shorter. 

The original GAO report evaluated how well the VHA followed through on recommendations to change management practices from internal and outside reviews of the organization. It also looked at how well a realignment of Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) from 21 to 18 was being carried out. Each VISN oversees all VA facilities and personnel in separate regions of the country.