Congress has addressed the problems for military veterans getting prompt health care with a bipartisan bill which goes to President Obama for signing. The legislation would allow veterans to seek private health care if they live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility, or are unable to get an appointment at a VA facility within 30 days.
Congressman Joe Wilson works closely with veterans in South Carolina and is chairman of the military personnel subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
He told South Carolina Radio Network that this measure also addresses accountability.
“The whole reason that I knew there was a problem at the Dorn VA Hospital is that the professional staff there contacted our office…and they let us know there were problems that needed to be addressed with delays in colonoscopies, with the problems related to infection rates in the operating rooms,” said Wilson.
An audit released in June found that a veterans hospital in Columbia had one of the longest average wait times in the country for first-time patients seeking an appointment. Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston also had first-time appointment waits of up to 45 days.
Wilson said legislation makes it easier to fire or demote senior VA managers who are not doing their jobs.
“There were so many protections to employment that persons could do wrong, sadly, as we found out at the Dorn VA hospital and the Charlie Norwood Hospital in Augusta (GA), we had people who weren’t doing their job and the only way to address this was to promote them and move them somewhere else,” he said.
The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act provides for more staffing as needed in overworked VA facilities. According to the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 3230 would result in additional direct spending totaling $35 billion over fiscal years 2014-2024.