Florida Congressmen Highlight Alternatives to Reform VA

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: May 31, 2014 3:55 AM
Tom Rooney, Patrick Murphy, Lois Frankel

Tom Rooney, Patrick Murphy, Lois Frankel

With the VA medical facilities under question in recent weeks due to altered waiting lists and other issues, Florida congressmen from both sides of the aisle showcased alternatives and reforms to the current VA system this week.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., who served in the Army and now sits on the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, announced his support for the “Veteran-Centered Access to Coordinated Health Care Act” this week. The bill would ensure the VA secretary sets up contracts with non-VA medical care “when it is not capable of providing services for geographical, capacity or timeliness reasons" and expand Project ARCH (Access Received Closer to Home), a pilot program in five states focused on veterans who live out of driving distance to VA facilities.
“The secret waiting lists in Arizona and other VA facilities aren’t isolated incidents – they are indicative of widespread problems at the VA in delivering care to veterans when they need it, where they need it,” Rooney said on Wednesday. “I have heard from veterans across my district who have been forced to wait months to see a doctor or begin needed, lifesaving treatment. Veterans in Florida’s heartland have to travel long distances for simple examinations and procedures. This is unacceptable.

“Just like veterans can take their GI benefits and go to any accredited school of their choosing, they should be able to take their health care benefits and go to any licensed doctor, especially when the VA can’t treat them in a timely manner,” Rooney added. “By allowing the VA to contract with non-VA providers, we can ensure that our veterans get the care they need, when they need it.”

On the other side of the aisle, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., who spent the Memorial Day weekend in Afghanistan visiting the troops with President Barack Obama, offered reforms of his own this week. Taking to the House floor on Thursday, Murphy highlighted legislation of his own which would speed up the VA appeals claim process by moving it more in line with the best practices in the federal judicial system, reforming the post-9/11 GI Bill by making application costs reimbursable and reforming the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts Program to cover tuition for spouses married to active-duty armed forces members serving overseas.

"Too often we hear that our nation's heroes, after fighting for our country, come home only to have to fight to get the care, support, and respect they so deserve,” Murphy said on the House floor. “We must make sure that the brave men and women who have risked everything for our country are never forgotten or ignored; that we fight for them as they have fought for us. Let's express our gratitude for the service of our nation's military, veterans, and their families by recognizing the struggles they face and supporting common-sense bills such as these to make sure they get the care, benefits, and support they have earned."

In the meantime, with veterans in South Florida waiting more than 30 days for VA care, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., said she supported the VA’s decision to use private providers to reduce the backlog.

"Expanding veteran care to private providers in order to prevent delays in treatment is a step in the right direction,” Frankel said this week. “Our returning heroes deserve the very best in health care without long waits for attention.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

Comments (5)

10:30PM MAY 31ST 2014
I would like to see congress pass a bill that will give more money to VA so they can hire more staff to do the job. VA is short of staff in every dept. lack of money. Congress have a lot to do with what is going wrong with VA.
12:38PM MAY 31ST 2014
It seems like, because of problems related to access closer to home, the VA is right to contract out to other providers. I still would like to see some arrangement where the VA builds or contracts with facilities in Mexico, not just for the economics of it, but because it will help iron-out some of our "immigration" problems.
C Breeze
8:53AM MAY 31ST 2014
ALL of the Dem-Rat politicians, from Central & South Florida are now "coming out of the woodwork" to 'plead allegiance' and suggest VA support methods to our Veterans (all the while hoping that the "Thank you for your service" platitude that they have been "meaninglessly mouthing in public" during the "Obama tenure" does not "OUT" their pathetic souls). They are "a day late and a dollar short" and we VOTERS will remember them during EVERY election cycle. These pettifogging fools have no idea what it actually takes to keep them safe in their beds at night; I believe it was Winston Churchill who answered that question: "It takes strong men who are willing to do what is necessary.." Squirm & shake politicians, we are coming to replace you with candidates who love America more than they care about "milking the country for self gain", and who will 'represent and work for the people' as our Republic's Constitution directs.
COL (Ret) Chuck Winn
6:19AM MAY 31ST 2014
The VA must stop awarding so called "service connected" disabilities for conditions like sleep apnea, off duty sporting injuries, hemoroids, complications from pregnancies and conditions that are hereditary or caused by normal aging and fair wear and tear. Many of these are conditions having no causal relationship to performing military duties and are merely coincidental to serving on active duty, if at all. These types of claims, often aggravated by years of unhealthy life style choices, clog the claims adjudication process, making our troops with severe combat wounds or operational injuries wait excessive periods for the compensation they are due. Congress also must have the courage to end the absurd policy of providing treatment to so called "veterans" who served absurdly brief periods or who were administratively separated for sub-standard performance without ever deploying anywhere.
8:20PM JUN 4TH 2014
All Veterans regardless of whether or not they have service connected disabilities, deserve healthcare coverage through the VA Healthcare System. Our Veterans have served their country and the least we can do to thank them is to provide them healthcare services.

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