When Congressman Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, made an unannounced visit to Wichita’s Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Hospital backed by a TV crew, I loved it.
Here was a Congressman actually doing his job — gaining access to a VA hospital after five days waiting to get answers.
Huelskamp was more or less stonewalled and didn’t get any substantive answers. He met with the facility’s chief surgeon and chief nurse. But Wichita VA director Francisco Vazquez, was on business in Colorado.
Huelskamp found out that a secret waiting list at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Wichita contained the names of 385 veterans and some veterans waited more than 90 days to get appointments.
There was apparently a financial incentive through bonuses if appointment books showed that VA patients were being seen on a timely basis. A high demand for services and shortage of medical staff made waiting a certainty for some patients.
Huelskamp has continued to press for answers from GAO, OIG and VA officials over the use of secret wait lists at Veterans Administration facilities.
Huelskamp recently questioned Debra Draper, U.S. Government Accountability office; Philip Matkovsky, secretary for veterans affairs; Richard Griffin, department of veterans affairs; and Linda Halliday, department of veterans affairs.
An internal VA audit conceded that more than 64,000 veterans had not seen a doctor.
“The VA operated with a ‘lack of integrity. breach of trust, indefensible, unacceptable,” Huelskamp said. “These ongoing, startling revelations should spur these officials to concede that the VA system is broken and needs to be reformed.”
Huelsakmp has properly stated he will continue to press the VA for the truth and demand that they provide answers for Veterans who deserve the highest standard of care.
Huelskamp, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is making progress representing his constituents.
The House voted 426-0 Tuesday to pass the Huelskamp-sponsored H.R. 4810, the Veterans Access to Care Act. The VA would be required to offer non-VA care to any enrolled veteran who cannot get an appointment within 14 days or who lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility. The bill would also ban bonuses for two years.