02.19.19

Kilmer and Brooks, Co-Chairs of Bipartisan Working Group, Introduce Fixes to Ongoing VA Healthcare Challenges

WASHINGTON, DC—Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Susan W. Brooks (R-IN), co-chairs of the Bipartisan Working Group (BPWG) have re-introduced a bipartisan package of fixes to ongoing challenges faced by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in delivering quality care to veterans. The solutions stem from a series of Government Accountability Office (GAO) studies that uncovered problems at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

 Last Congress, members of the BPWG met with the GAO to learn more about their oversight of VA healthcare programs and the VA’s ongoing efforts to adopt best practices. So far, the VA has failed to fully implement hundreds of GAO recommendations for improving access to care and management of VHA facilities.

“We owe it to those who have served our nation to not let partisanship or gridlock get in the way of providing veterans the care they have earned,” said Kilmer. “The Bipartisan Working Group is committed to finding consensus and solving problems, like those that have been plaguing the VA. I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues from both parties on this legislation.”

“Supporting our nation’s both male and female veterans and working to ensure they receive better access to the services and care they’ve earned is a priority on both sides of the aisle. The Accountability for Quality VA Healthcare Act works to improve the VA’s broken system so that we can better serve our veterans. I’m proud the Bipartisan Working Group is dedicated to solving problems together and providing our veterans with the care they deserve,” said Brooks.

The Accountability for Quality VA Healthcare Act (HR 1125) would require the VA to implement some of the highest-priority recommendations identified by the GAO, including:

  • Physical Security at VA Medical Facilities: This provision creates a pilot project that would bolster security at VHA facilities. 
  • Align VA facilities with the Needs of Veterans: This initiative requires a report from the VA Secretary within 90 days of enactment that evaluates facilities across the department and whether they need to be changed to better help veterans.
  • CBOC Leasing Handbook: This directs the creation of an updated handbook on best practices to ensure that the process for opening new outpatient clinics runs smoothly.
  • Improve Access to Care for Our Female Veterans Act: This section ensures the VHA conducts thorough inspections of medical facilities to make sure they have necessary medical supplies and equipment for women, who represent nearly 15 percent of the Armed Forces currently serving.
  • Veterans Wait Times: This initiative revamps the VHA’s scheduling department. It would require a routine assessment for scheduling needs and a clear strategy on how to retain employees in this space and make sure technology is up to date. 
  • VA Nursing Recruitment and Retention Improvement: This section establishes an annual report that would provide information on whether the VHA is hiring and keeping enough qualified nurses.

Founded in 2011, the Bipartisan Working Group is an informal member organization that seeks to address policy problems in a respectful and open-minded fashion. Meeting once a week, representatives from both political parties build relationships across the aisle by supporting member initiatives, discussing each other’s perspectives on pending legislation, and developing solutions to mutually identified issues.  

Representatives Kilmer, Susan W. Brooks (R-IN), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Stephanie N. Murphy (D-FL), Scott H. Peters (D-CA), John Rutherford (R-FL), Daniel Webster (R-FL), and Ann M. Kuster (D-NH) are the primary sponsors of the legislation.