Rep. Jeff Miller on Wednesday pledged a "bottom-to-top, top-to-bottom review" of the Department of Veterans Affairs in light of the scandal that led to the deaths of as many as 40 veterans while they awaited care.
"Before your next convention, there will be a total review, certainly the way healthcare is delivered to you and to those who qualify for benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs," the Florida Republican told the American Legion at its annual convention in Charlotte, N.C.
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"We have to change the way the VA has been delivering its benefits, changing the way it delivers healthcare, into the 21st century — no longer doing it the way the VA did it 50 years ago."
The American Legion presented its Patriot Award
to Miller and to Vermont independent Bernie Sanders for their service on behalf of veterans. Miller chairs the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, while Sanders heads the Senate counterpart.
The VA scandal
involved up to 40 deaths at the Phoenix Veterans Administration Health Care Center, the resignation of then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, and an investigation of the agency's 42 medical centers nationwide for similar issues.
In his remarks, Miller praised new VA Secretary Robert McDonald, calling him "an honorable man, a man who wants to do the right thing — because he has walked in the same boots that you have walked in."
"He understands what it means to be a veteran in this country, but he also understands that . . . business as usual will not be the watchword," Miller added. "People have to be held accountable, and there has to be transparency at the Department of Veterans Affairs."
The seven-term congressman added that legislation passed by Congress and signed earlier this month by President Barack Obama to shore up the system and give McDonald the authority to fire senior officials linked to the scandal will not be enough.
"This cannot be solved by legislation alone," Miller cautioned. "You cannot legislate ethics. You cannot legislate good conduct. That has to be instilled into the workforce at the Department of Veterans Affairs — and I know that Secretary McDonald is committed to doing that."
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