Following reports of secret waiting lists and delayed care at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), today introduced a bill to require the VA Inspector General (IG) to issue a report to Congress on the wait times veterans are experiencing at VA health care facilities nationwide. Thune’s legislation would prohibit the VA from closing any health care facilities or utilizing funds to conduct Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) concerning closures until the IG’s report is released. If the IG concludes that veteran appointments or treatments were intentionally delayed, the legislation would restrict the VA’s closing of medical facilities or using funds for an EIS until delays are resolved.
“Veterans across the country are being forced to wait for necessary medical care due to poor management by the Veterans Administration,” said Thune. “Our veterans have served with honor and dignity, only to be told to get in line to receive treatment for the results of their service and sacrifice. The current state of affairs of our veterans’ health care is embarrassing and change is needed. This report would give us a clear picture of where change is necessary so we can address this critical issue.”If the IG report finds delays that were not related to medical or administrative reasons, Thune’s legislation would only allow a VA medical facility to be closed after the Secretary of the VA certifies to Congress that the closure of the medical facility would not have a negative impact on veteran wait times for medical appointments and treatment, quality of care provided to veterans in the catchment area, veteran access to specialized health care services, access to residential rehabilitation treatment programs or other inpatient care, travel distances to receive inpatient and outpatient care, or access to medical care for tribal veterans. Once the IG certifies that the VA has satisfactorily addressed all veteran wait times nationwide, the additional requirements for closing a VA facility would be lifted.