President Obama should back a measure to streamline a Veterans Affairs “bureaucracy run amok,” a House Republican said in the party’s weekly address Saturday.
Rep. Jackie Walorksi (Ind.), a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, called on the White House to support a bill that would empower the VA secretary “to fire senior officials who aren’t up to the job,” helping to clean up the department’s current backlog on disability claims that averages 330 days a case.
“Even worse, this backlog has been associated with the deaths of thousands of patients waiting for their paperwork to clear. On top of that, their grieving loved ones have to deal with miles of red tape, waiting on the compensation they are owed,” said Walorski.
“These men and women fought for our country – they shouldn’t have to fight for their own benefits.”
The Indiana Republican noted that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) supports the VA Management Accountability Act, as do groups like the American Legion, Concerned Veterans for America, AMVETS, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced the bill in February, and the measure now has roughly 50 co-sponsors. But even with the Speaker’s support, the legislation has yet to clear the committee.
“Today we’re reaching out to the president – and to all Americans – because each of us has a stake in solving this problem,” Walorski said. “All the things we say about owing our veterans a debt of gratitude. All the promises we make to take care of them, to support them – the VA exists to turn those words into action.”
“America is a grateful nation. We cannot allow anything or anyone to get in the way of that,” she added. “The words ‘veteran’ and ‘backlog’ should never appear in the same sentence.”
House Republicans have said that the Veterans Affairs secretary currently can fire senior officials, but that the process can easily get bogged down in red tape.
In her address, Walorski noted a case in Atlanta where two top officials were allowed to retire early and three others given just a reprimand at a facility where at least three deaths could have been prevented.
In other cases, Walorski said, managers that should have been punished got bonuses instead.
“These pats on the back and slaps on the wrist only protect bureaucrats, enabling their improper behavior and putting our veterans at risk,” she continued.
While Walorksi acknowledged that the measure wouldn’t solve the claims backlog, she insisted “it’s a big step in the right direction.”
“This bill will give the VA Secretary the authority he needs to fix things,” Walorski said. “He’ll be able to clear out those who helped make this mess, and bring in people who will clean it up.”