WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) today introduced legislation to improve veterans’ access to timely health care along with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The Veterans’ Health Care Integrity Act would ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) complies with its own veteran health care appointment scheduling policies by making annual certification a statutory requirement.
“Our veterans and their families were asked to respond immediately when their nation called, yet the VA system makes them stand in line when it comes to their health needs,” Sen. Cornyn said. “This legislation will strengthen congressional oversight of the VA and promote greater accountability at VA facilities across Texas to make sure veterans receive the quality care they deserve in a timely manner.”
“The brave men and women who have served in our armed forces deserve the very best care our country can provide,” Sen. Nelson said. “This bill will hold the VA more accountable for the care it provides and help ensure that any veteran seeking care receives it in a timely manner.”
“I am proud to join with Senator Cornyn on a critical piece of legislation that will benefit veterans all across Texas and our nation,” said Sen. Cruz. “For far too long, our veterans have been victimized by a bureaucracy that prioritizes the bonuses and awards of senior executives over the needs of their patients. This bill is another key step towards enforcing accountability across the department, while taking steps to ensure that the health and welfare of the brave men and women who sacrificed so much on our behalf will be under the watchful eye of qualified leadership. Decisive action to change the landscape of VA is well past due, and with a supportive administration and the capable leadership of Secretary Shulkin, I am encouraged by the opportunities we have to implement effective, lasting reforms.”
“No senior staff should be getting bonuses while veterans wait for months to get essential care. And Congress needs to take a stronger hand in picking the people who run the VA if we’re finally going to fix it,” said Sen. Cotton. “This legislation should cut through the bureaucracy and provide real accountability to the veterans who need it.”
“This bill is a critical step in improving accountability within the VA and promoting congressional oversight at a time when it’s needed most,” said Sen. Hatch. “We must constantly work to improve the way veterans receive appropriate and timely access to care. This proposal will help Veterans Health Administration employees get the tools they need to successfully serve our veterans.”
The Veterans’ Health Care Integrity Act would require each VA medical center director to annually certify compliance with the scheduling directive enacted in 2016 which provides explicit guidelines and timetables for appointment scheduling in the Veterans Health Administration. Should the facility be unable to certify compliance with the directive, or any subsequent directives, the facility Director must submit to the VA Secretary explaining why to be included in the annual report submitted to the House and Senate VA Committees that list compliant and non-compliant facilities. The legislation would also prohibit the VA from waiving this certification requirement at any point in the future.
Additionally, the legislation strengthens accountability mechanisms to ensure facility directors and other senior VA officials are focused on delivering timely service to veterans by forbidding VA Medical Center Directors, Chiefs of Staff, Associate Directors, Associate Directors for Patient Care, and Deputy Chiefs of Staff from receiving awards or bonuses if their facility fail to certify compliance. The Veterans’ Health Care Integrity Act would also make six additional senior VA positions subject to Senate confirmation.