Op-Eds

ICYMI: Republicans and Democrats Unite on Landmark Veterans Bill

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Washington, July 7, 2017 | comments

You might not have seen it on the nightly news or in the local papers, but recently, Republicans and Democrats came together to take real action to help our veterans.

Most agree that our veterans here in Michigan and across the country deserve the highest quality medical care. The Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 is a direct response to the scandals at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of the past three years. This bipartisan legislation was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 368 to 55 and was signed into law by the president soon after. This important, common-sense bill puts in place landmark reforms at the VA that will provide better service to our veterans.

For too long, the VA has been mired in missteps, inefficiencies, scandals, and sometimes, downright corruption. We’ve all heard the stories about VA employees who fail in their most basic duties to serve our veterans. In the spring of 2014, we learned that dozens of veterans had died while languishing on secret wait lists at the Phoenix, Arizona VA hospital. As it later came out, VA wait lists had been manipulated throughout the country. Since then, the agency has careened from scandal to scandal, from the theft of opioids, to having calls at the VA suicide hotline go unanswered.

Our veterans deserve the highest quality medical care and tragically the VA has, oftentimes, very obviously let them down. To make matters worse, there has been a clear lack of urgency at the highest levels. Now is the time for us to step up and keep our promise to those who served, just like they kept theirs to us. The Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 will keep VA employees accountable, remove unnecessary government red tape that makes it nearly impossible to fire a negligent employee of the VA, and add much needed protections for VA whistleblowers.

At its core, our bipartisan legislation will lead to better care for our veterans and their families.

While the vast majority of VA employees are hardworking civil servants, it’s unfair to allow a few bad apples to continue to degrade this critical agency’s important work. This legislation is a first but vital step to restoring trust in the VA and ensuring we are delivering the highest quality care to our veterans. This legislation demonstrates that even now, in these highly divided times, we can find common ground on important issues.

You can learn more about this bill here and read more about by bipartisan initiatives here.

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