Questions VA Secretary About Other Improvements
Mar 02 2016
During a budget hearing for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Congressman Hal Rogers questioned VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald about efforts to improve management, reduce wait lists for veterans seeking medical treatment and enhance prescription opioid abuse prevention efforts.
Rogers applauded the VA for vamping up efforts to digitize VA medical records. To help speed up the digitization process, the VA recently announced 150 new jobs will be added at SourceHOV in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky.
"This Committee appreciates the Department's prioritizing of this project, and we support your efforts to make the claims process more efficient and reduce the backlog of veterans claims," said Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "Our veterans seeking access to their rightfully earned benefits are depending on us."
While Rogers commended Secretary McDonald for improving the claims process, he questioned continued reports of negligence and mismanagement that first surfaced at the VA in 2014, revealing that veterans continued to wait for critical healthcare services for months at a time last year.
"Last summer, one year after these facts surfaced, we received reports that the wait lists had increased by 50% in one year's time - even after Congress appropriated $15 billion to reduce the wait lists and hire more caregivers," said Rogers. "To this day, the magnitude of the wait list problem remains unclear and the VA Inspector General is just now beginning to release the findings of their investigation into the 73 hospitals across the country that forced our veterans to wait for care - care that in many cases never came. You and I both know that treating our veterans with this level of disregard is utterly unacceptable and truly deplorable.
Rogers also expressed concern for improving the VA's prescribing protocols for powerful painkillers. In 2015, the VA Inspector General reported at least one veteran had lost his life, because proper prescribing protocols weren't followed at a VA hospital.
"The veteran patient population must be a prime target for prescription opioid abuse prevention efforts, with so many veterans desperately seeking relief from the pain of battlefield injuries," said Rogers. "You have a committed partner in this Committee in the fight against opioid abuse and addiction among our veterans, and we stand ready to provide you with the support you need in this effort."
Click here to watch the FY17 budget hearing for the VA.