By Mario Trujillo - 06/04/14 11:47 AM EDT
House Republican leaders on Wednesday called on President Obama to present his vision for reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The VA scandal is a national disgrace, and Americans are eager to know the extent of your willingness to personally take action in order to make things right for those who have served,” read the letter to Obama signed by Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), and Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.).
Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned last week after an inspector general's report found that 1,700 veterans who sought appointments were not included on a Phoenix clinic’s official wait list. The report found the average wait time at the clinic was 115 days.
A broader investigation is looking into similar allegations around the country and charges that some veterans died while on secret wait lists.
The leaders said the resignation is not enough, and asked Obama to push Senate Democrats to pass the VA Management Accountability Act, which the House approved in a bipartisan vote last month and would give the secretary broader authority to fire managers.
“This is much-needed given your own audit’s findings that ‘some front-line, middle, and senior managers felt compelled to manipulate’ records to meet performance goals,” the letter said. “Unfortunately, as you may know, Senate Democrats blocked the measure, after it received 390 votes in the House.”
The White House has said it agrees with the principle of the bill.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, is slated to introduce a similar measure that would give new authority to fire senior executives based on job performance. Sanders says his bill will also ensure that employees have due process to challenge disciplinary treatment.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has called on the upper chamber to pass the bill as soon as possible.
The leaders also called on Obama to force the VA to be more cooperative with Congress. Lawmakers have complained that the department has not complied with a number of requests for information.
House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) is introducing legislation that would give more leeway for veterans to obtain private medical care if they cannot get an appointment at a VA clinic.
“We ask that you support this proposal, or offer an immediate, effective alternative,” they wrote.