VA crisis calls for swift action

First Posted: 6/2/2014

I had a great weekend traveling the district and attending various Memorial Day parades and ceremonies to honor our fallen heroes. At each of these events, I talked to veterans about the incompetence and deplorable conditions which led to the death of at least 40 veterans in Phoenix, Arizona and suggest a systemic problem nationwide. Like all of you, I am outraged at these reports.

Make no mistake, there are many good and dedicated people at the VA and in medical facilities around this country who work hard to provide veterans the service they deserve. The problem is the bureaucracy has gotten so massive and out of control that resources are wasted and the quality of care delivered to the veterans has decreased. We spend more today on the VA than at any point before, but too much of this money is spent on the bureaucracy in Washington and not enough at our hospitals and — most importantly — on veterans themselves.

My colleagues and I are working hard to pass commonsense measures to reform the VA so veterans can finally get the care they deserve. Last year, I supported H.R. 2189 to establish a commission or task force to examine the root causes of the VA backlog and provide solutions for ending it by 2015. Last week, the House passed H.R. 4031, the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act, to give Secretary Shinseki the authority to fire senior management and poorly performing bureaucrats. I also fought to include language in the most recent Veterans Affairs appropriations bill to directly tie the rate of compensation for the secretary and members of the Senior Executive Service to the percentage of claims that have not been completed within six months of entering the system.

However, holding people accountable and cutting salaries is only the first step in reforming this department to ensure veterans are receiving the care they deserve. We must do more to empower veterans to make their own health care choices. I believe veterans should have the freedom to go to the hospital or doctor of their choice and the VA should pay for their services. This would return the decision-making authority to the veterans themselves while providing the necessary support we promised them.

Additionally, we need to chip away at the massive bureaucracy at this department to cut down on the waste and inefficiencies that lead to the rationing of care and services. We should take a percentage of the funding used for overhead at the federal level and return it directly to the veterans and local communities to provide them greater quality care.

These are just a few ways we can move forward with commonsense measures and I would love to hear your ideas as well about how to totally reshape the culture at the VA and return it to its core mission. I’m honored to have the opportunity to fight for our military men and women and consider taking care of our veterans as my most sacred obligation. My office always stands ready to assist every veteran in our district with problems they are having with the VA and I hope all of you will encourage your fellow veterans to contact us if they ever need anything.

In light of the recent inspector general report on misconduct at the VA, I want to hear from you about the quality of care at our local VA facilities. I encourage every veteran to visit and tell me about your recent experiences with the VA. This will give me a better understanding of exactly what our veterans are experiencing in our local communities and allow me to better serve you and ensure you receive the benefits you’ve earned.

I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve our military men and women and consider taking care of our veterans as my most sacred obligation. I will continue to work tirelessly to increase accountability and ensure that our veterans are treated with dignity and respect.

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-Concord, represents North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District, which includes all of Richmond County.