Smith Supports Veterans Access to Care Act
The House of Representatives today passed the Veterans Access to Care Act (H.R. 4810) to address current delays facing tens-of-thousands of veterans seeking care through the VA. Congressman Smith supported the bill, which allows enrolled veterans to obtain non-VA care when they cannot get an appointment within the VA’s 14-day wait time window. The bill provides the same benefit to veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility. The Act also bans bonuses for VA employees for two years, and requires the VA to submit quarterly reports to Congress on the Department’s efforts to improve veterans’ access to care.
Rep. Smith: “Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are outraged by the recent VA scandal, which has left over 57,000 veterans across the country waiting for care. In San Antonio alone, 837 veterans are stuck in a wait list limbo. This is inexcusable. America’s veterans deserve the best care possible, as soon as possible.
“The Veterans Access to Care Act gives veterans immediate access to the health care. The bill ensures that if a veteran cannot get an appointment with the VA, they are able to access care outside the VA system at no additional cost to themselves.
“This is a good, bipartisan bill that provides immediate relief to the tens-of-thousands of veterans currently waiting for care. America’s veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms. The least we can do is make sure that they have timely access to the medical treatment they need and deserve.”
Yesterday, the Department of Veterans Affairs released the results of a nationwide audit that examined problems surrounding access to care for millions of America’s veterans. According to the report, schedulers at 76% of VA facilities had engaged in the practice of misreporting appointment requests to hide long waitlists for veterans seeking care. Thirteen percent of scheduling staff interviewed said that they had received direct instruction from supervisors or others to falsify medical appointment records.
The audit flagged certain VA facilities for further investigation and review, including Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital in the 21st District of Texas. Last week, Congressman Smith met with Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson to discuss recent allegations of misconduct at Audie Murphy Memorial Hospital.
On June 4, Congressman Smith sent a letter to VA Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin regarding reports from employees at Audie Murphy Memorial Hospital that senior managers had directed schedulers to hide evidence of delays for veterans seeking care. Rep. Smith raised concerns about the independence and integrity of the IG investigation in light of reports that investigators were only interviewing schedulers who were hand-picked and coached by senior management.