Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski is calling on President Barack Obama to support a bill to make the Veterans Administration more accountable in hopes of resolving a stubborn claims backlog that has kept veterans waiting months or even years to receive their benefits.
"We need this common-sense bill because it will empower the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to fire senior officials who aren't up to the job," Walorski said in Saturday's GOP weekly address.
Walorski, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the daughter of an Air Force veteran, is a co-sponsor of the legislation.
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The VA is "the epitome of bureaucracy run amok," said Walorski, adding that she hears daily from Indiana veterans forced to wait months for their disability checks. This is also happening nationwide, she said, where wait times average nearly 330 days.
"Even worse, this backlog has been associated with the deaths of thousands of patients waiting for their paperwork to clear," she said. "Their grieving loved ones have to deal with miles of red tape, waiting on the compensation they are owed."
The problem, said Walorski, is because of a "sheer lack of accountability."
For example, an audit of a VA hospital in Atlanta where at least three preventable deaths happened found that two top officials were allowed to retire early and three more were reprimanded. Others faced "unspecified actions."
In other cases, said Walorski, there have been managers who have not been disciplined, but have also gotten bonuses.
"These pats on the back and slaps on the wrist only protect bureaucrats, enabling their improper behavior and putting our veterans at risk," said Walorski.
The VA accountability act, said Walorski, will allow the VA secretary to clear up the mess and bring people in who can help.
The bill is still in committee, but has already gotten the backing of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and from organizations like the American Legion, Concerned Veterans for America, AMVETS, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
"This backlog is something I hear about all the time from veterans in my district, and it deserves our utmost attention," Boehner said on his website
. “The people who have let our veterans down should be held accountable, and with this weekly address, we’re putting the issue front and center.”
"America is a grateful nation," said Walorski. "We cannot allow anything or anyone to get in the way of that. The words ‘veteran’ and ‘backlog’ should never appear in the same sentence."
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