Weekly Columns

Veterans Care is a Top Concern

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Washington, July 28, 2010 | comments
The character of this country is defined by how we care for and honor our veterans.

Our service members offer a great sacrifice to our nation; some come home with wounds – either visible or invisible. Addressing the needs of our injured veterans is vitally important. That is why it is our responsibility in Congress to ensure the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) has the resources necessary to treat the needs of our nation’s heroes.

Today, the House is expected to pass a new VA funding measure which increases funding for many critical services the VA provides.

This bill includes additional funding for veterans’ claims. Our office works with a lot of veterans on their individual cases and we see firsthand the need for an improved claims system. The VA exists to serve our veterans, and their voices deserve to be heard when the system is not working like it should. While providing additional funds to the court of appeals for veterans’ claims does not solve every problem, it certainly is a step in the right direction.

I also want to make sure we have the proper funding to ensure quality care and services for our veterans, and I also want to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used as effectively as possible. That is why I’ve asked this Congress to invest more in the investigation branch of the VA. This is important because when there are problems with care, getting to the root of the cause is the only way to rectify problems and ensure quality.

In particular, I introduced an amendment that would transfer $45 million to the Office of the Inspector General (IG) account. The importance of the investigative arm of the Department of Veterans Affairs is undisputed.

With this transfer of funds, the IG would also be able to staff up their audit personnel and in healthcare to get into homelessness and elderly care, and to look at non-VA care for veterans, particularly in rural settings. A recent study performed by the IG in Montana of mental health care found that 85 percent of the mental health care provided in Montana is by non-VA physicians. Enabling the IG to perform these much needed audits will help ensure that the quality of services is there for our rural veterans, and that the VA is being charged for the actual services rendered. Not only does this better serve veterans, it serves all taxpayers.

Unfortunately, debate on this funding bill was limited and the Democrats decided to not even allow this amendment to be considered for a vote in the House. That’s frustrating, but as a veteran, Member of the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and top Republican on the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, I am committed to ensuring quality care for our veterans and I will always keep fighting.
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Tags: Veterans