Congress harms veterans’ medical access

As a physician, I find it unacceptable to see brave military veterans going without needed care within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  In south Louisiana, veterans stand for hours in overcrowded waiting rooms, while others face privacy issues within a temporary mobile clinic.  Meanwhile, the VA forces thousands of Louisiana veterans to travel more than three hours for basic tests and procedures that should be delivered locally.

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Last year, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation to authorize new local medical clinics  for veterans in south Louisiana and 18 other states (H.R. 3521). Instead of expediting passage of this bill by unanimous consent, senators locked it in a larger controversial veterans’ bill that cannot pass either chamber (S. 1982).  This all-or-nothing approach guarantees that veterans will continue receiving low-quality care in an unaccountable system.   I urge the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Committees to negotiate in good faith and find a way to send H.R. 3521 and other House-passed components of S. 1982 to the president’s desk before the end of the year.      

According to the VA, Congress’ failure to authorize leases for these VA clinics jeopardizes access for more than 340,000 veterans throughout our nation.  These brave individuals must not suffer because politicians disagree on unrelated issues.  

Boustany, a cardiovascular surgeon, has represented Louisiana's 3rd Congressional District since 2005. He sits on the Ways and Means Committee.