Today, U.S. Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) helped pass three bills that will increase accountability at the VA, improve the quality of care veterans receive at VA hospitals, and expand and update certain benefits to better serve veterans and their families. The largest of the bills is the Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act, which repackages a number of bills already introduced in the House to improve the chance that they are signed into law before the end of the year. It would update the scheduling and pay-structure for VA doctors to better compete with the private sector, cut red tape to get survivors and small business benefits to veterans’ families more quickly, and give Medal of Honor recipients priority enrollment in VA healthcare. The bill also directs the VA and Departments of Defense and Labor to better coordinate their programs that help veterans transition to civilian life – a provision similar to Rep. Peters’ Veterans Employment Transition (VETS) Act.
Rep. Peters also helped pass the Ethical Patient Care for Veterans Act, which requires VA doctors to report incompetent or unethical behavior to state medical licensing authorities, and the Faster Care for Veterans Act, which directs the VA to begin testing privately-developed scheduling programs to expedite appointment scheduling for veterans. The Ethical Patient Care for Veterans Act was passed in response to an opioid scandal at a Wisconsin VA hospital, dubbed “Candy Land,” where prescriptions for opiates quadrupled from 2004 to 2012, leading to at least one overdose death. This legislation will ensure that state licensing boards are informed of improper behavior and able to intervene and reprimand health care professionals in the event that VA officials fail to do so.
“These are important, bipartisan reforms to help get our veterans and their families the benefits and care they have earned through their service,” said Rep. Peters. “Changes to expedite the payment of survivor benefits and embrace innovation in scheduling VA appointments will make a real difference in the lives of veterans and their families. And in San Diego, where 15,000 servicemembers leave active duty every year, we understand better than most the need for high-quality programs that help our vets find employment and housing and make a successful transition to civilian life.”
Peters continued, “Keeping our promises to our veterans requires not just resources, but changing the culture at the VA to increase accountability and put the focus on serving the veteran, not the bureaucracy,” said Rep. Scott Peters. “The Ethical Patient Care for Veterans Act will keep negligent administrators from being able to cover up improper behavior and endanger our veterans as they did in Wisconsin. I will continue working next year to see the comprehensive accountability measures that I have supported this Congress made into law to ensure that our veterans receive the high standard of care they have earned through their service.”
Rep. Peters has made VA reform a priority of his work in Congress and voted twice in the past two years to pass bipartisan packages that would give the Secretary of the VA more authority to fire poorly performing employees, increase protections for whistleblowers, and reduce perks for senior VA employees.