Senator Tom Coburn Monday objected to passage of a bill supporters claim would help prevent veterans’ suicides, but would actually do little to actually fix the broken VA health system that is failing to adequately care for veterans. Objecting to such inane, wasteful and mistaken policy is a large part of what Dr. Coburn has always done best.
“Instead of holding VA bureaucrats accountable to ensure existing efforts are meeting the mental health needs of veterans, this bill would duplicate programs the agency has already failed to manage,” Coburn said.
“All Americans– veterans and taxpayers alike– should be outraged at this tragic situation. Those calling my office in support of this bill should instead be calling the VA and their own member of Congress demanding that they keep the promise to care for veterans.”
While well-intentioned, H.R. 5059 would do little to change or improve the deplorable situation at the VA, which is providing substandard medical care for the country’s military heroes. The bill creates several new programs at the VA and authorizes $22 million in new federal spending. In almost every case, however, the VA already has the tools and authorities it needs to address these serious problems. Further concerns with the legislation can be viewed here.
“Congress should hold VA bureaucrats accountable for their failing programs and substandard medical care instead of passing legislation that will do little to solve the tragic challenge of veteran suicides.” said Senator Coburn. “Our military heroes deserve more than false promises. It is dishonest for Congress to pretend that passing yet another bill will finally solve the challenges plaguing the VA.”
“The VA has proven that questions need to be asked before it is entrusted with the lives of veterans or the money of taxpayers. The only way Congress can help the VA solve this problem is through rigorous oversight, to ensure the promises we’ve already made are being carried out. New programs and new funding is not the answer, but give false hope to those already suffering.”
More than 1,000 veterans have died a result of poor medical care and waiting lines at the VA, found Friendly Fire: Death, Delay, and Dismay at the VA, a report on mismanagement at the VA released by Dr. Coburn earlier this year. Among its findings, the report exposed the failure of the VA in addressing the mental health needs of our servicemen and women. The VA failed to meet its 14-day goal in 34 percent of new mental health appointments in the areas of psychiatry, psychology, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse in 2013.
“This is a serious issue and needs a serious response. Only in Washington would someone think the answer is to give more money and responsibility to an agency that has made headlines all year for providing substandard care, long delays for veterans to see a health care provider, and mismanagement,” said Coburn. “Instead of pretending this bill will somehow fix the problem—which the President just signed a $10 billion bill in August to address—is typical Washington.”
As a physician, Dr. Coburn believes veterans should have access to the best medical are and any doctor they choose, not locked inside this broken system that clearly does not have the necessary mix of providers needed to care for vets in a timely manner. The legislation he introduced with Senators McCain and Burr, the Veteran’s Choice Act, was the basis for giving veterans more choice and accessibility to medical providers and non-VA hospitals in veteran’s hometowns.