Congressman Jason Smith Consults Veterans Advisory Board
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Congressman Jason Smith held a conference call with members of his Veterans Advisory Board to discuss issues with the Department of Veterans Affairs and recent reports of veterans not receiving timely access to care. The Veterans Advisory Board consists of at least two members from each one of the 30 counties in the Eighth Congressional District. Smith gave a brief legislative update to the group and then opened the call for members of the Advisory Board to share their concerns.
“Immediately after my election to Congress I formed the Veterans Advisory Board as a way to stay connected to the concerns and issues facing our veterans. The call today gave me a chance to hear directly from veterans about the care they are receiving from the VA and how I can be an effective voice for their needs in Washington,” said Smith.
Smith highlighted his sponsorship of H.R. 4810, the Veterans Access to Care Act, which will ensure veterans are provided more timely access to care by the Department of Veterans Administration. H.R. 4810 passed the House of Representative unanimously and is now waiting on a vote in the Senate. Last week the VA released an audit that found more than 57,000 U.S. military veterans have been waiting 90 days or more for their first VA medical appointment. The audit also found an additional 64,000 veterans have completely fallen through the cracks and have never received an appointment after requesting one from the VA.
“The audit released last week proves that problems with the Veterans Administration are much bigger than patient backlogs. It is completely unacceptable that 57,000 veterans have been waiting 90 days or more for their first VA appointment. Worse yet, 64,000 veterans have fallen through the cracks completely and never received an appointment with a VA doctor. This is a national disgrace, our veterans deserve better,” said Smith. “The Senate should act immediately to pass the Veterans Access to Care Act that will give veterans who are forced to wait for VA care access to private care providers. This common sense legislation is long overdue.”
On the call, Smith encouraged any veteran who is having trouble with the Veterans Administration to contact his staff.
“My staff and I want to help any veteran who is not receiving the help they need from the VA. Our veterans have willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms. I will do everything possible to ensure they get the care they have earned,” said Smith. “The Veterans Access to Care Act will give immediate help to veterans waiting to see a doctor. I plan to work with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to change the culture within the VA and ensure that our veterans and their needs are put first.”
Veterans Access to Care Act Background:
- The Veterans Access to Care Act would require the VA to offer non-VA care at the department’s expense to any enrolled veteran who cannot get an appointment within VA wait time goals – currently 14 days – or who lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility
- The Veterans Access to Care Act would give the VA secretary the power to fire poorly performing VA executives for performance
- The bill would ban bonuses for all VA employees from FY 2014 – 2016 and require VA to submit a quarterly report to Congress including usage info and an accounting as to what purchase methods were used to provide non-VA care.
- The bill would require an independent assessment of VA performance to include recommendations for improvement of the VA’s current and projected health care capabilities and resources.