Roby on Resignation of VA Secretary: Less Interested in Who Gets Blame, More Interested in Solving the Problem

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U.S. Representative Martha Roby
For Immediate Release: Friday, May 30, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s announcement that Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned.

“President Obama made the right decision in allowing Secretary Shinseki to step down. Secretary Shinseki has a distinguished military record and has served his country honorably. However, accountability has been lacking at the VA, and it is important to send a message that failing our veterans will not be tolerated.

“I’m less interested in who gets the blame and more interested in what we can do to fix the problem. I believe there are three ways that Congress, President Obama, and the VA leadership can work together toward resolving this crisis.

“First, the Senate should pass and the President should sign into law the House-passed VA Management Accountability Act, which removes legal barriers for swiftly firing senior-level VA bureaucrats who aren’t getting the job done. The bill passed the House in a bi-partisan vote just a week ago, and the Senate should follow our lead.

“Second, the Senate should quickly approve its VA appropriations bill. In the House, we passed our appropriations bill for the VA weeks ago. The bill increases funding for veterans health services, with special funding directed toward fixing the electronic record problems that have contributed to the backlog. The Senate should act swiftly so we can work out any differences and send a final bill to President Obama.

“Finally, the Department of Veterans Affairs must utilize its Patient Centered Community Care program, which allows VA medical centers to contract with local hospitals or clinics to get veterans care quickly and efficiently. We know there is increased demand, probably more than current VA resources can handle. So why not utilize this existing program to contract with local providers and get veteran patients the care they need, especially when the alternative is putting a veteran on a waiting list?

“Time is of the essence. Our nation’s military operates under the premise of leaving no man behind. Right now, too many American veterans are being left behind. The change in leadership is a positive first step, yet it is just one step toward getting our veterans the care they deserve.”

Patient-Centered Community Care (PCCC) was initiated by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013 as a way to allow veterans to access health care services not offered by their local VA medical centers or those that come with especially long waiting lists. Under PCCC, VA medical centers can contract with local, non-VA health care providers for services such as mental health care, emergency care, physical therapy and even limited newborn care for veteran mothers.

Rep. Roby pushed for and succeeded at including language within the Fiscal Year 2015 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Committee Report directing the Department of Veterans Affairs to document the success and cost effectiveness of PCCC in order to establish the program as a viable alternative for more VA medical centers and more veteran patients.

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