“Americans across the nation have been truly shocked by the way our veterans have been mistreated.
The fact that 18 veterans died in Phoenix alone while waiting for care is a national tragedy.
This should be reason enough for Washington to take decisive action – action to reform a system that allowed this tragedy to occur, and action to hold those responsible accountable.
And yet, as we now know, the scandal extends well beyond Phoenix.
In the words of the government’s own inspector general report, the kind of problems we saw there are ‘systemic’ and extend throughout the Administration’s facilities.
A new internal audit, released just yesterday, found that the scandal has spread to 76 percent of V.A. facilities surveyed.
It also found that about 100,000 veterans continue to wait for V.A. medical appointments – and that many veterans have already had to wait three months or more. This is a national disgrace.
I recently received a message from a disabled veteran who lives in West Liberty, Kentucky.
He says he’s experienced ‘delay after delay’ in the V.A. system — and he’s understandably fed up.
He says that every time he thinks he’s getting somewhere, he finds that some V.A. employee has changed a date in his file, or has posted a ‘no show’ for appointments he wasn’t even made aware of.
'I suppose I will become a casualty of the War with the V.A.,’ he wrote, ‘Before I ever receive a decision on my appeal or ever receive proper treatment.’
It’s not right.
That’s not the promise this country made to our veterans.
And there’s no good reason for the Democrat Leader in the Senate to make veterans wait another day longer. There’s no reason for the Majority Leader to prioritize partisan bills aimed at boosting Democrat turnout in November over bipartisan legislation aimed at fixing the problems at the VA.
That’s why we should move to the Sanders-McCain bill introduced last night.
Veterans have been made to wait long enough at these hospitals. Congress shouldn’t keep them in the waiting room by putting partisan games ahead of solutions.
Fixing this problem is where the Senate’s focus should be right now.
As the acting VA Secretary recently said, the extent of the problems at the VA ‘demand immediate actions.’
I know the Majority Leader would rather turn to a political agenda he already admitted was written by campaign staffers. But we’ll have plenty of time to consider bills designed intentionally to fail later.
Instead, now is the time for the Senate to act like the Senate again. To be serious. To be more than just a campaign studio for one political party.
Senators Burr, Coburn, and McCain have been working extremely hard on the issue, along with the Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee. And we all know, there’s no one in this chamber better suited to tackling this crisis than John McCain. He understands the experience and needs of our veterans.
So we should give Senator McCain and the rest of this group the space and the support they need to get effective, bipartisan reform through the Senate. And given that their legislation contains provisions similar to a bill that already passed the House overwhelmingly, I think we’ll get there too.
But we need to give the effort the attention it deserves first. That means putting the designed-to-fail bills off to the side for a minute.
Because look: this is what the American people actually sent us here to do – to legislate.
So I’m calling on the Majority Leader and the President to hit pause on the never-ending campaign.
Veterans have been denied care. Veterans have died.
This is the issue that deserves the Senate’s immediate attention.
And if our colleagues are serious about getting to the bottom of this scandal, holding the perpetrators accountable, and enacting the reforms needed to fix it…then they’ll actually focus on helping our veterans – instead of worrying about saving their own seats in November.”
Information provided by Robert Steurer
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