Leaders of Bipartisan Working Group Introduce Fixes to Ongoing VA Healthcare Challenges

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Jim Renacci (R-OH) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), co-chairs of the Bipartisan Working Group, introduced a bipartisan package of fixes to ongoing challenges the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has faced in delivering quality care to veterans. The solutions come from a series of Government Accountability Office (GAO) studies that uncovered problems at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

The Bipartisan Working Group met with the GAO to learn more about their reviews of the VA and the VA’s 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.

The Accountability for Quality VA Healthcare Act (H.R. 3874) would require the VA to implement some of the recommendations identified by the GAO that would improve the VA system for veterans they represent.

“We owe it to those who served not to let partisanship or gridlock get in the way of getting veterans the care they 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.”

“I started this group six years ago to get things done in Washington and dropping a package of bipartisan bills with the goal of better serving our veterans should be an example to all members,” said Renacci. “Each week our group met to hammer out details and build bipartisan support to strengthen the services and care our veterans’ receive and I am excited we are pushing these bills forward, together.”

Included in the package of bills are:

  • Physical Security at VA Medical Facilities: Led by Representative Scott Peters (D-CA), this initiative creates a pilot project that would bolster security at VHA facilities. 
  • Align VA facilities with the Needs of Veterans: Led by Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY), 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: Led by Representative Kilmer, 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: Led by Representatives Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), this act ensures the VHA conducts thorough inspections of medical facilities to make sure they have needed and equipment for women, who represent nearly 15 percent of the Armed Forces currently serving.
  • Veterans Wait Times: Led by Representative Salud Carbajal (D-CA), 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. 
  • Reforms to Encourage VA Meaningful Progress Act of 2017 Act: Led by Representative David Joyce (R-OH), this act calls for the VHA to give clear timelines for when it plans to enact fixes and how to measure if they are working.
  • VA Nursing Recruitment and Retention Improvement Act of 2017: Led by Representative Renacci, this act 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, Renacci, Mark Amodei (R-NV), Lou Barletta (R-Pa), Representative Andy Barr (R-KY), Brooks, Carbajal, Joyce, Mike Kelly (R-PA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Murphy, Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Peters, Rice, John Rutherford (R-FL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), David Valadao (R-CA), Daniel Webster (R-FL), and Peter Welch (D-VT) are the primary sponsors of the legislation.