by Malia Zimmerman, Watchdog.org, June 3, 2014
HONOLULU – Twenty-two million American veterans rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide medical services, but a number of preventable veteran deaths, outbreaks of infectious diseases and extensive benefit delays have put the organization under intense scrutiny by advocates, Congress and the media.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs notes in a blog entry that despite multiple VA Inspector General reports linking VA patient care problems to widespread mismanagement, and GAO findings that VA bonus pay has no clear link to performance, the department has defended its executives who presided over these missteps, while giving them glowing performance reviews.
The committee also notes in its blog entry that “the widespread and systemic lack of accountability may actually be encouraging more veteran suffering instead of preventing it.”
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, an Army veteran who has served two tours in the Middle East, asked President Barack Obama on Monday to use his executive power to allow veterans to access private medical care outside of the Veterans Affairs system without VA pre-approval and bureaucratic red tape.
“I am calling on him (the president) to use his executive powers to immediately allow veterans to use their VA identification cards to obtain medical care through the private health system,” Gabbard said. “Furthermore, I plan to introduce legislation that will give our veterans the right to obtain private medical care using their VA cards over the next 12 months, at which point we can re-evaluate whether the VA problems have sufficiently been fixed.”
Gabbard said those veterans who urgently need medical care should not have to go another day without it or deal with a “broken system.”
Letter to President Obama
Dear Mr. President,
Aloha and best wishes to you and your family.
Many of our veterans urgently need medical care and they should not have to go another day without it. I have seen the wounds, both visible and invisible, of veterans I served with. To make any veteran wait for medical care is not only an emergency, it is a travesty.
Our veterans cannot afford to wait for a new head of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or for the systemic problems of the VA to be fixed. They need care now, and, as the President of the United States, it is within your power to make this happen. I’m calling on you to use your executive power to immediately allow our veterans to use their VA identification card to obtain medical care through the private health care system, with the VA paying the bill for any needed services. I urge you to take this action.
This is a crisis, and as such, private medical care must be available to veterans without VA pre-approval. Unfortunately, the so-called “emergency” measures which have recently been put in place still require veterans to undergo bureaucratic red tape to get the care they need—leaving their health and well-being in the hands of a broken system. Allowing veterans to use their VA identification card to obtain medical care through the private health system will solve the immediate problem.
No one knows exactly how long it will take for the systemic problems of the VA to be fixed. Until then, please implement this stopgap measure for the next 12 months or longer if necessary.