Biden: ‘Stop fooling around’ on VA reform

Vice President Biden on Monday pressed Congress to stop "fooling around" and quickly approve a bill to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs and confirm a new chief for the troubled agency.

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"It is time to get it done now," Biden said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in St. Louis. "Stop fooling around. Get it done now."

The vice president called on lawmakers to approve President Obama’s nominee for VA secretary, former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald.

"Congress has a job to do," he continued. "We urge them to quickly confirm Bob McDonald and finish the work on the veterans legislation currently in conference."

McDonald will face a confirmation hearing in the Senate on Tuesday.

The VA has been mired in a scandal over long wait times that led to delayed patient care, and over a massive benefits backlog for veterans filing disability claims. Those problems led to the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and to the House and Senate passing separate bills that would help reform the agency’s healthcare system.

But efforts to negotiate compromise legislation in conference have stalled with the two chambers divided on how to pay for the reforms.

Biden thanked the VFW and other veterans organization, for keeping up pressure for reform after audits earlier this year found that tens of thousands of veterans had to wait months to see doctors, and some VA administrators kept veterans off official wait lists. 

"I want to thank the VFW and every other organization for weighing in and insisting, insisting there would be no compromise,” said Biden. “Know this, we will not rest until it gets fixed.

"As we now painfully know there many, many things that need to be done to meet that obligation," he added. 

Biden also highlighted a number of veterans programs included in his job training report to be released later this week, specifically touting programs aimed to prepare veterans for high-tech positions.

"Why do we have to issue 480,000 to 500,000 H1B visas — visas to allow people from other countries, which I welcome, to come to the United States to fill high-tech jobs?" he asked, noting that there are currently not enough qualified people in the United States to fill those posts. 

Biden also touched on U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Iraq, Biden said recent events there have highlighted what the U.S. learned in Vietnam — that our military cannot solve other nation’s societal problems. 

He said the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has taken over parts of the country, could actually be a catalyst for a unity government there, noting that the Sunni militant group is an enemy of numerous ethnic groups in the region. 

Biden highlighted the steps the United States has taken to help Baghdad, including providing military advisers and urging leaders to form an inclusive government. 

In Afghanistan, Biden said it is up to the country to forge its own future, noting that all but 9,800 U.S. troops are expected to be out of the country next year. 

He said the war struck a blow to al Qaeda in the region, preventing the terrorist group from using the country as a base to launch attacks on the U.S. and praised Secretary of State John Kerry’s role mediating the disputed Afghan presidential elections.