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Sen. Moran Takes Action on VA Scandal in Senate Appropriations Committee

"I am pleased the Senate Appropriations Committee supported taking action today to help make certain VA personnel are held accountable."

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, took action today to hold the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accountable during the Senate Appropriations Committee mark-up of the Fiscal Year 2015 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The committee voted unanimously to include Sen. Moran’s VA Management Accountability Act of 2014 amendment in the VA funding bill. Additionally, the Appropriations Committee included an amendment authored by Sen. Moran to force the release of reports by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of the Medical Inspector (OMI) on their investigations into wrongdoing at VA facilities.

"As the instances of systemic dysfunction and lack of leadership at the VA continue to mount, we do not need more damage control – we need to eliminate the damage being done to our nation’s veterans," Sen. Moran said. "I am pleased the Senate Appropriations Committee supported taking action today to help make certain VA personnel are held accountable. In addition, the Committee supports my amendment to publically release OMI reports on access and quality of health care at VA facilities. The release of these reports will allow Americans, the press, Congress and veterans to see what the VA knew, when they knew it and what they did about it. These are important steps toward resolving the problems at the VA so that veterans have a Department of Veterans Affairs worthy of their service."

The VA Management Accountability Act of 2014, which Sen. Moran’s amendment was based on, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday by a vote of 390 to 33. The bill would give the Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary complete authority to fire or demote VA Senior Executive Service (SES) or equivalent employees based on performance. The VA Management Accountability Act of 2014 was originally introduced in the House by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) and in the Senate by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Sen. Moran is a cosponsor.

Sen. Moran’s other amendment accepted today to the Fiscal Year 2015 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill requires the VA to submit routine Reports to Congress on the findings and recommendations stemming from any OMI report. Unlike reports from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), OMI reports are not made public or released to Congress. Because OMI reports are not available for review, it is impossible to know whether the VA has taken any action to implement the OMI’s recommendations for improvement in each case of wrongdoing.

The initial Report to Congress would cover Medical Inspector reports over the last four years detailing the findings, recommendations and legal or administrative actions resulting from the investigation. Sen. Moran’s amendment will require the VA to detail any legal or administrative action taken against employees identified in these investigations, who should not be serving veterans and whether such action was followed through. Sen. Moran’s amendment, which is coauthored by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), will also be introduced today as a stand-alone bill in the Senate.

In addition to Sen. Moran’s two amendments, prior to the full committee mark-up today, the Milcon-VA Subcommittee included bill language that expands and extends Project ARCH (Access Received Closer to Home) beyond its expiration in September 2014, making certain it is appropriated in FY2015 at $35 million. ARCH is a Congressionally-authorized pilot program implemented by the VHA which allows veterans to access care from non-VHA community providers that are closer to where a veteran lives. Since 2011, the Project ARCH pilot program has been up and running in Pratt, Kan., as well as four other rural communities within Virginia, Montana, Arizona and Maine. Analysis shows that more than 90 percent of veterans who received primary care services through Project ARCH were “completely satisfied” with the care, and cited significantly shortened travel times. Sen. Moran is committed to making certain rural veterans who currently utilize the program – and hopefully others – continue to receive the care they deserve.

Sen. Moran has been a member of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees for 18 years, chaired the Health Subcommittee in the House for two years, and has worked with nine VA Secretaries. The hearing followed Sen. Moran’s call for Secretary Shinseki to resign amidst ongoing systemic dysfunction within the VA system. 

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