WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Department of Veterans Affairs Oversight Enhancement Act of 2018, bipartisan legislation to increase Congressional oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in collaboration with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Despite numerous significant reforms, the VA remains riddled with systemic problems, inefficiencies, and repeated failure to ensure that all veterans receive the level of care and benefits to which they are entitled, and which they were promised by the federal government. The GAO designated VA health care as a high-risk area in its 2015 High Risk List – a list produced at the beginning of each Congress to identify agencies and programs that are at high risk of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or that need to be transformed. In 2017, the GAO again included VA health care on its High Risk List, stating, “…we continue to be concerned about VA’s ability to ensure its resources are being used cost-effectively and efficiently to improve veterans’ timely access to health care, and to ensure the quality and safety of that care.”
“Our military members risk their lives to protect us; it is unacceptable for their healthcare to be at risk as well. This bipartisan bill will ensure Congress has the information it needs to hold the VA accountable and make sure that the VA is using its funding effectively to give every single veteran timely, high-quality care,” Klobuchar said.
“It is unacceptable that such a critical component of the mission of the VA remains beset by problems, delays, and failure to address pressing deficiencies,” Young said. “This bill will improve the ability of Congress to exercise robust oversight of the VA and ensure that this Department addresses the issues identified by the GAO.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs Oversight Enhancement Act of 2018 requires the following actions to correct issues with VA health care and strengthen Congressional oversight of the program:
1) Requires the VA Secretary to compose a report to Congress reviewing the actions that the Department has taken to implement a High Risk Action Plan and comply with the criteria established by the GAO for removal from the High Risk List.
2) Requires the VA Secretary to report to Congress on the implementation status of all open priority GAO recommendations for the Department.
3) Requires the GAO to assess the VA’s implementation of the High Risk Action Plan to be removed from the GAO High Risk List.
Click here for the full bill text.
Klobuchar has worked across the aisle to modernize G.I. Bill benefits for our troops, strengthen funding for veterans’ health care and improve mental health care for our nation’s soldiers. In February, Klobuchar and Young led a bipartisan letter urging the VA to give prompt consideration to the recommendations for improving veterans’ access to mental health services as noted in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which highlighted the substantial unmet need for mental health services for veterans who supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has also authored bipartisan bills on behalf of our nation’s veterans and their families to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, expand job training and employment opportunities, cut red tape and wait times for veterans scheduling appointments at VA Medical Facilities, and to reduce veterans’ homelessness.