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Real Reform for Real Heroes

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March 16, 2017 | Ian Martorana (202-225-3031) | comments

There is a lot in the news right now about the discussion over the future of health care in America, and it’s an important one. Obamacare has failed the American people: Premiums are skyrocketing and deductibles are soaring. Americans are left with fewer choices—just ask the Wisconsinites who live in one of the 16 counties in the state with a duopoly, meaning there is only one or two insurers available to Wisconsinites in that county.

It is our job to provide a system where people can get universal access to affordable coverage if they choose to do so or not. That’s what we’re going to be accomplishing with the American Health Care Act.

But there is another area of the American health care system that’s in serious need of reform: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You know about the number of incidents at the VA facility in Tomah, but there are—heartbreakingly—examples of that kind of negligence all around the country: One VA nurse operated on a veteran while drunk, and another was reinstated at her job at the VA despite complicity in an armed robbery.

Our veterans deserve better.

Last year, the House—in overwhelming bipartisan fashion—passed the Jason Simcakoski Promoting Responsible Opioid Management and Incorporating Scientific Expertise (PROMISE) Act. That bill makes it safer for veterans to seek opioid therapy and pain management care. But the PROMISE Act was just one reform of many that are needed.

That’s why this week, the House will consider the VA Accountability First Act. We know the vast majority of VA employees are honest, hard-working, and committed to serving our nation’s heroes. It is unfair to those men and women, as well as those in uniform, when the bad actors at the VA are not held accountable for their actions. This bill gives the VA Secretary increased flexibility to remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee for poor performance or conduct.

The House will also consider legislation to establish staffing, recruitment, and retention programs at the VA. Veterans deserve high-quality care, but they can’t get that unless the VA has all the tools they need to hire high-quality employees.

And the best news? Both of these bills are bipartisan.

Former-Speaker John Boehner used to say that ‘about 90 percent of what Congress does is bipartisan. It’s the other 10 percent that tends to get all the attention. Bipartisanship is not rare. It is just rarely noted.’ And this week, Congress proved that once again. These VA reforms are worthy of attention. 

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