Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers talks with Sheila Hagar of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin about her recently-introduced bill that works to empower veterans while giving VA employees more tools to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Following are excerpts from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin article:
COMING TOGETHER TO EMPOWER VETERANS: Earlier this month Eastern Washington Republican [Cathy McMorris Rodgers] and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., introduced the Faster Care for Veterans Act 2016. The proposed bill requires the VA to initiate pilot programs to incorporate commercially-available, self-scheduling technology at VA medical centers.
The bipartisan bill is a response to the VA scandal of 2014 that exposed unacceptable wait times, poor treatment and failed customer service at VA facilities across the country.
ADDRESSING PROBLEMS WITH VA SCHEDULING HEAD ON: The VA’s antiquated 1980s-era electronic scheduling system was thrust into the spotlight in 2014 when it was revealed the VA was manipulating it to hide long wait times for veterans seeking health care. National attention has brought no improvement — the number of veterans waiting 30 days or more for medical care increased by 50 percent in 2015, according to McMorris Rodgers.
McMorris Rodgers and Moulton heard from VA officials on plans for a new, $624 million scheduling system she said would still not meet the full need, including an inability to integrate the Veterans Choice card.
“After hearing from a number of veterans in Eastern Washington, it’s clear that current systems at the VA are so archaic and cumbersome, the agency is unable to follow through on its responsibility to provide the care our veterans have earned,” [McMorris Rodgers] said.
ENSURING VETERANS THE SAME OPTIONS THAT ARE AVAILABLE IN DOCTORS’ OFFICES ACROSS THE COUNTRY: Off-the-shelf software already meets appointment scheduling needs in medical offices everywhere, [McMorris Rodgers] said, so why make a new system for the VA?
McMorris Rodgers said veterans using the VA system should have the same appointment options as people have in private doctors’ offices across the country.
“The VA, unfortunately, has some bureaucratic systems in place that do not welcome innovative approaches that empower results within the agency,” she said.