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Rep. Dan Benishek: VA Shows How Badly Mismanaged It Is

By    |   Thursday, 16 Jul 2015 07:42 PM

The Department of Veterans Affairs' declaration that it may need to shut many of its hospitals next month if Congress fails to address a $2.6 billion shortfall shows how badly mismanaged the agency continues to be, Rep. Dan Benishek says.

"Can you believe it? They say they're going to shut down every hospital and clinic in the country because they ran out of money? They didn't know they spent $2.6 billion more than they had," Benishek, a Michigan Republican, said Thursday to John Bachman and Miranda Khan, hosts of "Newsmax Now" on Newsmax TV.

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"Do we have to listen to this repeatedly? … Obviously there's some problems that really need to be fixed. It's unbelievable that this is happening."

In hearings this week before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, the VA told Congress it needs to cover shortfalls caused by a growing demand for healthcare, including expensive medicines for hepatitis C. In addition, the VA is also weighing the imposition of furloughs and hiring freezes.

"It seems to be a new revelation every month about some incompetence," said Benishek, who plans to propose a bill — the Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act — that would force the agency to name the individuals responsible for addressing individual problems.

"They don't do that right now. They say 'oh we're all working on it' and then you ask at the end of the month 'well what did you actually do?' they don't know who was in charge of the project," Benishek said.

"We need to start naming names in the VA and actually hold those individuals responsible … Right now they hide behind this shield of anonymity … [They say] nobody is actually in charge.

"We need to name somebody who's actually responsible and whose job performance rating gets rated depending on their production."

Benishek said one example of incompetence at the VA can be found by just calling the agency on the phone.

"If you call the VA hospital and you get the machine, [it tells you] if you're thinking of harming yourself, hang up and dial 1-800-674-5788. Why don't they just have a button to push that connects to a hotline for mental help?" he said.

"They don't have that, so I said why don't you just fix that and make it so you don't have to remember a number, write it down and then call back? Why don't you have a 'push 1 for help?' [They told me] 'Well, we're going to do that but it's going to take us six months.'"

"We need leadership in the VA and we don't have that."

The VA scandal erupted last year when it was revealed at least 40 veterans died while waiting for care in the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system.

It spread to other VA hospitals across the nation, and involved, among other outrages, keeping two different waiting lists: The real one, which was kept secret, and a false one that included fictitious wait times. The false list was used for official reporting.

The scandal forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. Robert McDonald took over and vowed to root out the problems plaguing the agency and improve the quality of healthcare for veterans.

Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican who chairs of the veterans affairs panel, has introduced the VA Accountability Act, which would reduce the period of time an employee could appeal a termination to less than 30 days.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs' declaration that it may need to shut many of its hospitals next month if Congress fails to address a $2.6 billion shortfall shows how badly mismanaged the agency continues to be, Rep. Dan Benishek says.
Dan Benishek, Veterans Affairs, hospitals, shortfall
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2015-42-16
Thursday, 16 Jul 2015 07:42 PM
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