When it comes to the delivery of primary and mental health care, timing is everything. Waiting even a few days can mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, our nation’s veterans have become too accustomed to delays. We’re working to change that.
For far too long, veterans seeking access to health services at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers have faced backlogs, long wait times, and far too much bureaucracy. These American heroes should have accessible, timely, and comprehensive care right when they need it.
During a 2014 internal audit of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), it was revealed that not only were tens of thousands of veterans waiting three months or more to receive care, but employees of the VA were deceiving the public and covering up this grievous mismanagement. Congressional hearings since then have highlighted the severity of the VA’s backlog.
Following the audit, the Inspector General’s released a report that made it clear that major changes were necessary. In 2016, the VA announced a series of reforms to address these failings, among them included the commitment to delivering same-day services for primary and mental health care at all 170 VA Medical Centers across the country.
In addition to the VA’s self-imposed changes, Congress also passed and President Trump signed the VA Mission Act in 2018, codifying some aspects of same-day service requirements by providing urgent care options and expanding access to non-VA health care providers for eligible veterans.
The VA’s efforts to adopt same-day service requirements were a positive step towards ensuring our veterans in need of care are not falling through the cracks. In August of 2019, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that reviewed some of the early victories and failures of same-day service. While the results of their inquiry showed overall care was improving, there were still gaps in service.
Each time the VA fails to administer same-day treatment, they are risking the health and safety of our veterans. That’s why I was proud to re-introduce the Same-Day Accountability Veterans Enhancement (SAVE) Act, a bill to implement the findings and recommendations of the GAO’s 2019 report and require the VA create an action plan to address their facilities’ gaps in same-day coverage. This legislation will continue to improve the process that our nation’s veterans navigate every day, requiring the VA to track and report their progress on the implementation of their same-day care initiative.
We must ensure that the VA carries out its commitment to same-day service. The SAVE Act is just one way to do this, but it will bring us one step closer to providing veterans the caliber of care they deserve.
To all who have served, you kept your promise to our country—I will make sure that the VA keeps theirs to you.