House votes to boost VA inspector general

The House on Monday passed legislation that would pressure the Department of Veterans Affairs to follow up on problems outlined by its inspector general.

Passed by voice vote, the bill would require the VA inspector general (IG) to notify Congress and the department secretary of any failure to adopt recommended reforms in its reports.

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"Veterans are dying. The time for excuses and delays is long past," said Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.), the bill's sponsor.

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) argued that the measure would push the VA to more closely heed problems highlighted by IG reports.

"Too often, we've seen inspector general reports that find the same problem time and time again at VA medical centers," Brown said. "Problems aren't fixed."

Within 15 days of the notification, the VA secretary would be required to give the IG the names of each responsible manager. 

The IG could not make the managers' names public. But managers involved in the issue identified by the IG would be ineligible for bonuses until it is resolved. 

An audit ordered by the White House that came out Monday found more than 57,000 veterans are still waiting for initial appointments at VA hospitals and clinics despite waiting for 90 days.

The audit's finding falls far short of the VA's target for scheduling an appointment within 14 days.

Officials from the Government Accountability Office, the VA Office of the Inspector General and the VA are scheduled to testify before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee at a 7:30 p.m. hearing on Monday. 

The House is expected to vote Tuesday on a bill that would allow veterans to seek care from doctors outside the VA if they live more than 40 miles from the nearest facility or the wait time is too long.

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