Kilmer & Newhouse Bill to Fix Veterans Healthcare System Mismanagement Clears Key Committee

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs passed a bill authorized by U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) to force the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to move forward on fixes to its management issues. 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. It is now cleared to head to the floor of the House.    

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, and others written by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), have uncovered that the VA did not follow through on internal and Congressional recommendations to fix the problems of manipulated wait times and management failures, and highlighted problems with the VA’s human resource department. Additional reports will be released to the public this year.

“We need to have the backs of those who serve,” said Kilmer. “Stories and reports about manipulated wait times and mismanagement in our VA system proved that systemic reforms are needed. I’m glad our bill is moving forward so we can improve care and get veterans the services they have earned.”

“Veterans deserve a VA that works, and our bill will require action to improve systemic problems that affect delivery of care,” said Newhouse. “I am grateful for my colleagues on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs for approving our legislation to pinpoint and address mismanagement issues at the VA.”

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 being signed into law. 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 exposed 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 an average of 59 days 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.