Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor the brave Americans who sacrificed their lives in defense of this great nation. A special day set aside for all of us to stop and acknowledge those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy.
I hope you and your family are able to take time over the holiday weekend to commemorate this solemn occasion. I hope you’ll also take the opportunity to share the true meaning of Memorial Day with children and teenagers in your family. It is easy to allow the excitement of a three-day weekend or the beginning of Summer to distract from the reason we have this holiday to begin with.
Let’s not take for granted those who were willing to lay down their lives to win and preserve the freedom we have today. On Memorial Day and everyday, let’s remember and honor their sacrifice.
Unfortunately, this Memorial Day comes at a time when our country is appalled by the shameful way some military veterans have been treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system. Reports of negligence and malfeasance at some VA facilities have become a national outrage, and deservedly so. The more that is revealed the more disgusting it becomes: secret waiting lists, veterans waiting months to receive care, falsified data to make VA facilities look good on paper while veterans suffered and died without treatment.
I fear that a systemic lack of accountability within the VA has led to a culture of complacency, and that must change. But, actions speak louder than words, so here’s what we’re doing about it:
- This week, the House passed the VA Management Accountability Act, a bill I co-sponsored, by an overwhelming 390-33. It removes legal barriers for swiftly firing senior-level VA bureaucrats who aren’t getting the job done.
- We recently passed an appropriations bill increasing funding for veterans health services, with special funding directed toward mental health care, suicide prevention, and fixing electronic records problems that have contributed to the backlog.
- I also am working to get the Department of Veterans Affairs to utilize its Patient Centered Community Care program, which allows VA medical centers to contract with local hospitals or clinics to get veterans care quickly and efficiently. I hear from veterans everyday who are waiting on services from the VA. We know there is increased demand, probably more than current VA resources can handle. So why not utilize this existing program to contract with local providers and get veteran patients the care they need, especially when the alternative is putting a veteran on a waiting list.
This situation is past the point of being just a problem. It is a crisis, and I’m tired of hearing excuses for why we can’t fix it. Ensuring real accountability, directing funding to address priority problems, and tapping into local healthcare resources through Patient Centered Community Care are just some ways we can address the issue right away.
It has been said that the willingness of future generations to serve in the military and fight for this country will be depend on how they perceive those who served in earlier wars have been treated and appreciated by our nation. That’s true, and if you’ve watched the news lately, you know we have a lot of work to do on that front.
This is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue. It is an American issue, and we have to work together to address it. I’m committed to finding solutions by seeking the changes necessary to make the VA work.
On Memorial Day we remember those we’ve lost giving what President Lincoln called that “last full measure of devotion” in defense of freedom. Let’s not forget the veterans who are still with us and not allow this nation to fail or forsake them with broken bureaucracy.