Sen. Bob Casey & Latino House Leaders Becerra and Ruiz Call for VA Reforms
18% of Hispanic Vets are Disabled & Depend VA Health System
J.Smith/El Hispano Philadelphia- Just hours before the release of the interim findings of an Office of Inspector General’s inquiry into delays at various Veterans Affairs Health facilities,
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) addressed the issue at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, Wednesday, calling for “accountability” and remedial action from both the VA and the administration.
“It’s unacceptable to allow what has happened to continue. We need answers and we need accountability to start with the administration and the VA itself,”said Sen. Casey. “What we don’t need are more people in Washington finger-pointing (who) don’t have answers.”
With the Inspector General’s interim report confirming allegations of delays in care and manipulation of records to conceal those delays “throughout” system, Sen. Casey’s statements were echoed by two California Latino Congressmen, the U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra and U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, who released statements addressing the troubled VA following the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
“This behavior must end and a criminal investigation is needed to remove individuals who participated in this wrong-doing,” asserted Rep. Ruiz. “The veterans in my (36th) district and across the nation deserve better. Their safety and care must come first.”
While applauding the “dedicated’ service of Secretary Shinseki, Rep. Becerra, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, denounced the “unacceptable lack of integrity within some of our Veterans Health Administration facilities.”
After similarly acknowledging Secretary Shinseki as a “distinguished veteran,” Rep. Ruiz called for “new leadership at the VA (to) put an immediate and decisive end to this severe systemic misconduct and hold those responsible accountable.”
The Inspector General’s report alluded to Hospital “leadership” who relied on favorable “performance appraisals” for awards and “salary increases.”
The Veterans Administration health care system is the largest in the nation, serving nearly 9 million veterans. Of the 1.2 Hispanic Veterans who are eligible for VA health system services, 18 percent or nearly one-in-five Latino Veterans have service-related disabilities; and are likely to be dependent upon the services of the troubled system.
Urging support for a $24 billion multifaceted veterans bill that includes extensions and expansion of sundry veterans programs that was offered by Independent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Casey said, “We need people from both parties to be part of the solution, not just pontificate, blow a lot of hot air and finger point.”
The suggestion that veterans issues should be treated in a bipartisan manner and “not like a political football,” reiterated comments to El Hispano from (ret.) Lt. Col. Tim Meserve, the director of the region’s Veterans Multi-Service Center. The Veterans Multi-Service Ctr. has worked closely with local Latino Veterans like U.S.M.C. Juvencio Gonzalez and U.S.M.C. George Perez.
While conservative organizations have criticized the proposal by Sen. Sanders for adding services for injuries “not related to military service” , Sen. Casey stressed the need for adequate resources: “If you’re serious about accountability, if you’re serious about fixing problems (and) making sure veterans get good health care, you should vote for that bill.”
In addition to backing the Sen. Sanders’ comprehensive veterans bill, Sen. Casey has proposed his own bipartisan bill to expedite the processing of claims by Veterans, entitled, “21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act.”
Among other things, the measure includes provisions to improve veterans’ access to information about the claims process; provides monetary incentives to develop claims submission; recommends audits of regional offices of the Veterans Benefits Administration; improves accountability and oversight of VA regional offices; and demands greater cooperation from federal agencies to transfer requested information.