Newhouse veterans bill passes House

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Newhouse

WASHINGTON D.C. — A bill sponsored by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Yakima, that is designed to fix issues at the Veterans Health Administration was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The VA Management Alignment Act of 2017, which was originally introduced by Newhouse and Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, passed the House in a decisive fashion by receiving 399 yes votes and not a single no vote.

The bill now heads to the Senate and, if passed, will be forwarded to President Donald Trump to be signed into law. The bill is designed to bring fixes to the VA and its management issues by directing the head of the VA to create a report to Congress and detail the steps needed to reorganize and improve veterans’ access to health care.

“This Friday is Veterans Day, when we honor the sacrifice of the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces,” Newhouse said. “I can think of no better way to honor our veterans than improving the care that they have earned and that our nation has promised. I am grateful that this legislation has been approved by the House to address mismanagement in the VA.”

In 2014 news came out about wait times for patients at the VA in Phoenix, along with other VA locations across the country. A nationwide audit discovered new patients at the VA Puget Sound Hospital, which nearly 100,000 veterans use, had to wait an average of 59 days for an appointment. Across the country the audit found 13 percent of VA schedulers advised that supervisors instructed them to “manipulate” appointments in order to make wait times appear to be shorter.

“We need to have the backs of those who serve,” Kilmer said. “Stories and reports about manipulated wait times and mismanagement in our VA system proved that systemic reforms are needed. I’m glad our bill is moving forward so we can improve care and get veterans the services they have earned.”

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) study revealed the VA failed to address internal and congressional recommendations to fix manipulated times. If passed, the bill states the VA will deliver its report to the Committees on Veteran’s Affairs of the Senate and House within 180 days of its passage. The report would detail the job duties of the higher-ups at the VA and how the department is organized. The bill states the report will recommend any important legislative changes that are needed at the VA.

Richard Byrd can be reached via email at city@columbiabasinherald.com.

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