What The VA Really Needs

John Boehner

At the core of the Veterans Affairs (VA) scandal is a lack of accountability for managers and employees, a fact made even more clear every time a new report of mismanagement and abuse surfaces.

In May, the department’s Inspector General confirmed the systemic problems that Republicans had warned about. That same month, the House passed the VA Management Accountability Act, but Senate Democrats blocked the bill. When President Obama accepted the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, House Republican leaders sent the president a letter reiterating that one change at the top would not stop the misconduct happening nationwide.

After a forced audit, the VA admitted more than 57,000 veterans are still waiting for their first doctor appointment. Others already died. Secret waiting lists hid these facts, ensuring veterans’ medical needs were buried safely out of sight, so that “Every senior VA executive was rated ‘fully successful’ or better over four years.” Whistleblowers who tried to speak out and stop the abuse have been harassed, intimidated, and fired. The cover-ups allowed nearly 300 top managers to collect “merit bonuses totaling more than $2.7 million last year,” and 21 top VA executives to collect “the maximum merit bonuses of $12,579 in 2013.” Additionally, the VA knowingly continues to overpay staff, costing many more millions of dollars.

While no care has proved deadly for veterans, so has the VA’s poor care. According to a new report, there were “more than 500 incidents last year where patients were gravely injured or died as a result of the care they received.”

Under this growing cloud of deception and incompetence, acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee yesterday, saying the department needs $17,600,000,000 in new money – that’s $17.6 billion more from taxpayers – in order to do the right thing for veterans.

But Veterans groups, newspaper editorial boards, and even some Democrats all agree: funding is not the issue.

Just look at how the VA’s budget has increased during the Obama administration. As the president talked and talked and talked about fixing the VA, the department received the equivalent of a $17.6 billion increase nearly four times. Now it says it needs more.

Speaker Boehner has consistently said that President Obama must “give our veterans the world class health care system they deserve by articulating a vision for sweeping reform.” That’s the type of change that will bring accountability to the system and ensure veterans receive the care they’ve earned.

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