Hurd on the Hill: For Veterans, We Need to do More

March 9, 2015
Hurd on the Hill: Local Columns

We were all outraged when news broke last year that some VA facilities were failing to provide the healthcare that veterans had earned and deserved and that some veterans might have actually died due to mismanagement and unethical practices. 

We became angrier after learning that these problems were systematic, and had been on the current Administration's radar screen for sometime.

Our veterans deserve better and elected officials must continue to focus on improving the quality of care our veterans receive. 

Last week, Congress passed two pieces of legislation designed to continue reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs. The first was called the Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act and it gives our veterans the ability to transfer to a non-VA medical foster home facility, instead of staying in a VA facility for long-term healthcare needs.

The second bill addresses another issue I found appalling. Despite the negligence on the part of some VA employees, many of them actually received bonuses for their work. Think about that. Though many veterans had received substandard care, and some had even died before receiving the healthcare they needed, the employees responsible for this malpractice were rewarded with extra pay— from your tax dollars.

That is completely unacceptable. 

This bill allows the VA Secretary to force an employee to repay these bonuses. Taking away the bonuses of VA employees who failed to do their job is just plain common sense. Bad behavior should not be rewarded, especially when it leads to endangering the lives and health of our nation’s heroes.

I also joined with several colleagues and sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald to inquire about the President’s budget, which would hinder some previous reforms, such as allowing veterans to seek healthcare from a non-VA facility if their wait is greater than 30 days or if they live further than 40 miles from the nearest VA clinic. If the President wants to prove that he is serious about reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, taking away the funds they need to assist our veterans is hardly the way to do it.

If we are going to make sure that our veterans are getting the healthcare they deserve, we still have more work to do. They need more choice and more control. But they also need to know that the employees helping them have their best interest at heart. We should not let a few bad apples ruin the reputation of the thousands of hard working VA employees, but we must ensure accountability in the system. Congress has an important oversight role to play with the VA and it is an issue I will be paying close attention to.

And to the many veterans and their families in the 23rd Congressional District of Texas, I want to say thank you so much for the sacrifices you have made to protect the freedom of our nation.