Lance: VA allegations are alarming, horrific and outrageous
As Memorial Day approaches, there is growing outrage over revelations that our veterans died as a result of bureaucratic incompetence and manipulation at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The VA’s inspector general’s office is examining allegations that up to 40 veterans died while waiting for treatment at a Phoenix VA hospital as administrators and staff disguised the waiting times and falsified appointment records. Similar allegations are being investigated at 26 other facilities across the country.
There are also reports that salary bonuses given to senior officials at VA hospitals based on performance incentives may have contributed to cover-ups of how long patients are kept waiting for care.
These allegations are alarming, horrific and outrageous. The VA scandal is a national disgrace, and American people and our veterans expect quick and the decisive leadership from the Obama Administration.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign. And the President must immediately address the systemic problems — unaccountable bureaucracy, long waiting lists, rationed care — that are plaguing our veterans' health care system.
A good first step would be a presidential endorsement of H.R. 4031, the "Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act,” legislation I cosponsored and that recently passed in the U.S. House. It would give the VA secretary greater authority to discharge or demote senior executives responsible for patient care problems and widespread mismanagement in VA facilities and programs across the country. This legislation will help ensure this by giving the VA’s Secretary the tools to hold failed executives accountable.
President Obama has the solemn duty, as commander-in-chief, to fix the broken bureaucracy of the VA. In New Jersey, thousands of veterans and their families rely on the integrity of the VA health care system. They deserve the highest quality medical care and most efficient delivery of benefits possible. The President’s “mad as hell” response to the VA scandal is not going cut it.
We must ensure that what happened in Phoenix and other VA facilities around the country doesn’t occur again. And we must do it now. Our veterans deserve no less.